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Cannonball Adderley: The Black Messiah

9. Cannonball Adderley: “The Black Messiah” (The Black Messiah; Capitol, 1972)

“The Black Messiah” is the one true epic in Adderley’s catalogue. Written by keyboardist George Duke and performed live at the Troubadour in Los Angeles with a 10-piece band on hand (“I don’t give a damn if you can count or not, we are the Cannonball Adderley Quintet!” the leader gleefully admonishes), it’s a full-on embrace of the electric jazz he’d helped to usher in since 1966. It gives Adderley space for a bravura solo line, which shows how he’d come to terms with the influence of his former bandmate John Coltrane but also how with ease and aplomb he navigated the trudging rhythms and dark textures of jazz fusion. Once again, however, none of that prevents Cannon from being eternally, defiantly Cannon. The sheer force of his personality makes even the psychedelic noise in “The Black Messiah”’s back half work.