One of the things I’ve always loved about Cannonball Adderley’s approach to jazz is how he seamlessly infused elements of R&B and (later) soul into his arrangements. While he could play straight hard bop with the best of them, I think his best output comes from his willingness to expand and experiment. And so this week I want to highlight a song from Cannonball’s his first album of the 1970s, Country Preacher (Capitol Records SKAO-404, 1970). It was recorded live in Chicago in October 1969.
After a fiery introduction by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Adderley’s quintet — Cannonball on alto sax, Nat Adderley on cornet, Joe Zawinul on piano, Walter Booker on bass, and Roy McCurdy on drums — busts out a greasy funk-inspired groove on “Walk Tall.” This brilliant mix of late ’60s funk and jazz is not unlike the music of the Jazz Crusaders or Ray Bryant from the same period. It’s both highly stimulating and accessible. I see songs like this being at the top of the charts in a world where jazz remained ascendant and rock never really grabbed America’s imagination.
The album, incidentally, is subtitled “Live” at Operation Breadbasket. Operation Breadbasket was founded as a department of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1962 as an organization dedicated to improving the economic conditions of black communities across the U.S. Rev. Jackson was chosen to be head of the Chicago chapter in 1966.
Listen to “Walk Tall” (Joe Zawinul/Esther Marrow/James Rein)