Saturday, February 23, 2008
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, Cannonball Adderley Quintet (1966)
Soul-jazz instrumental Mercy, Mercy, Mercy was one of those rare gems that teenagers got exposed to by virtue of the eclectic nature of the pop charts during the 60s. In today's narrowcasting world, nothing like that would ever happen.
I seriously doubt the entire 5+ minute version that youtube gloriously offers was actually what we were hearing on the radio in those 3-minutes-and-out days, but what we did hear was the epitome of sophisticated cool.
Written by the Quintet's keyboardist, Joe Zawinul, who had played with Maynard Ferguson and later went on to form Weather Report with Wayne Shorter, the smouldering licks of Mercy, Mercy, Mercy never failed to transport me to somewhere better - and more swinging - than I was at the time. There is an automatic and extended visceral reaction from the song's slow burn to the exhilarating finish - a reaction I'm still having 42 years later.
But Zawinul wasn't the only one with a pedigree - Julian "Cannonball" Adderley had played sax with Miles Davis in the 50s, and his brother, cornet player Nat, had been with Lionel Hampton. With Zawinul, rounding out the rhythm section were drummer Roy McCurdy (he's 72 and has a myspace page!), who had worked with Chuck Mangione and Sonny Rollins, and on bass, Victor Gaskin, who went on to play with Dexter Gordon and Duke Ellington. Is it any wonder this song killed?
In 1967, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy popped back up, complete with lyrics (I know not from where), in a recording by the Chicago-based group the Buckinghams. It earned a higher chart position than the original, but doesn't hold a candle to it.