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JazzTimes 10: Essential Cannonball Adderley

10 key tracks from a hard-bop and soul-jazz giant

Just as Chicago is America’s Second City, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley is modern jazz’s second alto saxophonist. The instrument’s best-known and most important practitioner after Charlie Parker was also one of the key figures in the hard-bop movement—and helped usher in the soul-jazz sound that was hard bop’s successor.

But it wouldn’t be fair to pigeonhole Adderley in that category. The saxman and bandleader was always more than willing to experiment with his sound, even as he was scoring crossover pop success. His last years found Adderley trying out African rhythms, a studio orchestra, and even a flirtation with the avant-garde. He was a major early contributor to fusion as well, a onetime mentor to electric keyboard pioneers Joe Zawinul and George Duke.

It is fair to say, though, that Adderley thought jazz was at its best when it was a people’s music. Regardless of his stylistic wanderings, his work was always brimming with melody and fiery soul. Here are 10 of the best examples.

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Listen to a Spotify playlist of all 10 tracks featured in this JazzTimes 10:


Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.