Continuing with the “soul jazz” theme we started last week, let’s look at another example of that style, and one with surprising crossover appeal, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at “The Club” by the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. Before we go too deep into this, you should know that you’re being lied to on the album cover: Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! was recorded live (in 1966), but it was not recorded at “The Club.” See, “The Club” was the former Club DeLisa on the South Side of Chicago, whose owner, E. Rodney Jones, was a friend of Adderley’s and got Adderley to go along with a clever bit of marketing for his venue. Jones wrote the liner notes to the album and spun a nice tale about how Capitol Records set up its equipment in his club one night and it just happened to be the night when Adderley’s band was in such incredible form that they decided to make an album out of it. In reality, the album was recorded at Capitol’s studio in Hollywood with an audience invited in to provide the “live” feel.
The Adderley brothers (Cannonball on alto and Nat on cornet) were real pioneers in developing soul jazz; their quintet was incorporating soul sounds into its style back in the 1950s, before Cannonball put the group on hiatus so he could go fool around with Miles Davis. Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! is a true soul jazz classic; in fact, its title track (written by pianist Joe Zawinul) made it to #11 on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart, which was unheard of for a jazz tune even in the 1960s.
Joining the Adderleys are Zawinul alternately on piano and electric piano, Victor Gaskin on bass, and Roy McCurdy on drums.
The album opens with “Fun,” written by Nat Adderley, a pretty straightforward hard bop number except for the wailing solo Cannonball takes at the beginning, where you (or at least I) can really here how John Coltrane influenced his style while both were with Davis:
Nat Adderley also wrote the second track, “Games” (get it, “Fun” and “Games”?) another uptempo hard bop tune but one that feels a little funkier:
Next is Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” which deserves all the accolades it gets because it’s just a fantastic tune. Laid-back, mellow, driven by Zawinul’s electric piano, it’s easy to see why it became so popular:
“Sticks” was written by Cannonball Adderley and really gets the crowd into it with its gospel-influenced feel and two inspired solos from Nat and Cannonball:
Zawinul also wrote “Hippodelphia,” which gets back into the hard-charging bop style of “Fun” and really lets McCurdy go nuts on the drums:
Finally is Cannonball’s “Sack o’ Woe,” which sandwiches a funky melody around a long swinging middle and is your best chance to hear Gaskin’s bass, as he gets an extended solo: