Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 10/21/11

As we do pretty much every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #467:

Cannonball Adderley – Mercy Mercy Mercy: Live at the Club

More than virtually any other artist, alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley successfully bridged the gap between R&B and jazz: he was terrifically popular in the urban juke joint scene, and did his best work live. This 1966 album with a kick-ass band including brother Nate on cornet and a young Joe Zawinul on piano gets the nod because it doesn’t have any of the schlock he occasionally tried to jazz up, like stuff from Fiddler on the Roof. Right off the bat, he spirals all over the place on the opening theme, aptly titled Fun, followed by the swinging proto-funk of Games, the title track (a surprise top 20 hit), the fiery Sticks, Zawinul’s Hippodelphia and a killer, eleven-minute version of Adderley’s own Sack O’Woe, taking the set out on an exhilarating note. If you like this stuff, get to know his other 60s material: it’s pretty much all great. As Joe Strummer said, only half-sarcastically, “Don’t step on my Cannonball Adderley lp’s or cds.” Here’s a random torrent.

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October 20, 2011 Posted by | jazz, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Memoriam: Joe Zawinul, 1932-2007

Viennese-born jazz keyboardist Joe Zawinul died September 11 in his hometown after a battle with cancer. He was 75. Zawinul pioneered the use of electronic keyboards in jazz and was a major influence on his fellow musicians, notably Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. While studying at the Berklee School of Music in 1958, Zawinul was hired away by Maynard Ferguson, and later played with Dinah Washington and Cannonball Adderley. While with Adderley in the 1960s he wrote Mercy Mercy Mercy, one of the first jazz songs to use an electric piano. Later in the decade he contributed the title track to the milestone Miles Davis album In a Silent Way, Davis’ first venture into the electric sound that he would expand on and continue to use throughout the remainder of his career.

In 1970 Zawinul founded Weather Report along with sax player Wayne Shorter and bassist Miroslav Vitous. Arguably the most important of the jazz fusion bands of the 70s, Weather Report played a mix of high-energy, funky jams and quieter, more reflective material. Zawinul’s work with the band – which later included legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius – broadened the sonic palette for jazz keyboards, utilizing different electric pianos, synthesizers and effects including wah, reverb, distortion and loops. It is hard to think of a jazz or funk musician since 1970 who was not influenced in some way, directly or indirectly, by Zawinul and Weather Report.

Zawinul’s best-known composition was Birdland, the opening track from Weather Report’s 1977 album Heavy Weather. What Take the A Train or Take Five were to earlier eras, Birdland was to the late 70s and early 80s, the most popular jazz song of its time. Even punk rockers knew the song’s simple, celebratory hook. After Weather Report dissolved in the early 80s, Zawinul led the Zawinul Syndicate, a fusion group that he played in until very shortly before his death, releasing several albums on his own BirdJAM label.

While jazz fusion remains a dirty word in some circles because of its use of rock arrangements and steady 4/4 time (not to mention the fact that fusion was the forerunner of Lite-FM style elevator jazz), there is no denying Zawinul’s pioneering influence, his uncanny sense of melody, his formidable chops and his brilliance as a bandleader.

September 13, 2007 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, obituary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment