Jazz Reflections

My favorite jazz tune growing up in Sumter, SC was organist Jimmy Smith’s High Heel Sneakers, which also tied with his Got My Mojo Working.  I was turned on to Jimmy Smith after my father returned from his second trip to Viet Nam with a seven-inch reel-to-reel player.  Jimmy Smith was one of the recorded reels he brought home, and I was initially intrigued by the cover of the reel.   To go with the reel to reel was my parent’s German-made stereo that was dead, but I found the speakers were full of life, and so did the neighbors.

I can recall coming home from high school and playing tracks that would have the windows rattling as the organ pushed out such powerful notes backed by the drummer on the snare which brought a great addition to his soulful tracks.

Decades later, I saw a picture of an album cover that rekindled a vague memory of a saxophonist and it caused me to do an online search and listen to the title track of this album, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy by Cannonball Adderley.  The musicians included Cannonball Adderley- alto saxophone Nat Adderley (his brother)-cornet, Joe Zawinul– acoustic & electric pianos, Victor Gaskin– bass, and Roy McCurdy– Drums.  By the way, Joe Zawinul is the backbone of Weather Report.  If you are interested in hearing a vocal rendition, check out Queen Latifah.

“Released as a single in January ’67, ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ rose to No.2 in the US R&B charts and No.11 in the pop lists, while its parent album topped the US R&B albums chart and made No.13 on the Billboard 200. There were cover versions of the song, too, most notably by Marlena Shaw, who scored a Top 40 R&B hit with a vocal version in 1967.” (udiscovermusic.com)

“The tracks that made up Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! were cut in Hollywood at Capitol Studios, in front of an assembled congregation of family members, fans, and music-biz people, to help give it a live concert feel. Cannonball had, in fact, recorded live at The Club in March ’66, and though that performance had been slated for release, it didn’t come out at the time (it eventually surfaced in 2005, 30 years after the saxophonist’s death, as the album Money In The Pocket). It’s feasible that Cannonball wanted Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! to give the impression of having been recorded in Chicago, in order to avoid disappointing The Club’s owner, who was a friend.

Comprised of six varied tracks, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! is an album that showcases the exciting onstage alchemy of Cannonball’s band, who veer from intense, cutting-edge modal jazz (‘Fun’), to rousing pop-soul beat ballads (‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy), and danceable, finger-snapping soul jazz in the shape of ‘Sack O’ Woe’, one of Adderley’s signature tunes, where Joe Zawinul’s driving piano takes the listener straight to church.

But it’s ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ – which elicits enthusiastic shouts, hollers, and spontaneous clapping from the audience – that is the album’s keystone. Defined by an infectious chorus and infused with a strong, gospel feeling, the song is now regarded as a quintessential example of soul jazz. Its author was Joe Zawinul, who also contributed the cool groove ‘Hippodelphia’ to the album.” (udiscovermusic.com)

Cannonball’s infamous track is a mainstay in my musical collection, and I often turn to it while driving or just kicking back a home. I consider this to be a true gateway to jazz and will ask each artist we host to perform their rendition of this jazz classic.  If you search for covers of this classic, you will find approximately 100 or more artists have recorded their rendition. Check out the ones by James Brown, Kevin Eubanks, The Buddy Rich Big Band, Kenny G, Queen Latifah, and Jaco Pastorius.


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