June 13, 2024

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CD review: Cannonball Adderley Quintet – Live In Montreal May 1975 – 2024: Video, CD cover

Some live albums are pristine experiences showcasing the virtuosity of a performer and others are more visceral, capturing the raw excitement and charisma of an artist in the moment. The latter is what makes Cannonball Adderly’s Live in Montreal May 1975 such a thrilling and indelible listen.

Recorded just a few months before his untimely death at age 46 after suffering a stroke, Live in Montreal finds the legendary alto saxophonist leading his group at the time which featured his brother cornetist Nat Adderley, pianist Michael Wolff, drummer Roy McCurdy, and bassist Walter Booker.

This is essentially the same line-up that Adderley used on his final recordings for the Fantasy label, including Inside Straight, Phenix, and Lovers; albums that found him infusing the soul-jazz of his ’60s work with the synth accents and rhythms of ’70s fusion and funk. Though somewhat rough around the edges, his performance in Montreal underscores that organic, funk-influenced vibe.

The album opens with “Five of a Kind,” a frenetic, free bop-sounding number that recalls the late-’60s quintet work of Adderley’s former boss Miles Davis. We also get the swinging hard bopper “First Trip” and an earthy reading of Adderley’s biggest hit, the gospel-inspired “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”

Particularly interesting is “Waban,” a cinematic-sounding modal composition from keyboardist Wolff (featuring a bowed bass intro from Booker) which hints at the harmonically expansive post-bop Adderley may have leaned into had he lived.

While the music is the main focus on Live in Montreal May 1975, we also get to hear Adderley introduce several tunes, including his classic “Country Preacher” (dedicated to Rev. Jesse Jackson) where he illuminates his humorously wry brand of spiritual enlightenment.

These are all highly engaging tracks that nicely underscore the swaggering and bluesy improvisational style Adderley favored.

1 Five of a Kind
2 First Trip
3 Mercy, Mercy, Mercy
4 The Scene
5 Cannonball Intro To Waban
6 Waban
7 Cannonball Intro To Country Preacher
8 Country Preacher

Alto Saxophone – Cannonball Adderley
Bass – Walter Booker
Keyboards – Mike Wolf
Percussion – Roy McCurdy
Trumpet – Nat Adderley

The Cannonball Adderley Quintet - Live In Montreal May 1975 (Vinyl LP) –  The Jazz Vault

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