Regarded as one of the greatest alto saxophonists in the history of jazz, genial Florida giant Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley (1928-1975) was an ardent exponent of hard bop in the ’50s before playing a leading role in the development of the accessible soul-jazz style in the 1960s. In fact, he was one of the few jazz musicians in that decade to score genuine crossover pop hits – like 1967’s classic gospel-infused ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,’ helmed by uber producer David Axelrod, who was a key figure in taking Cannonball’s music to a wider audience while at Capitol Records. After a fertile stint at Capitol, in the mid-’70s the saxophonist returned to producer Orrin Keepnews’ Riverside label, where he had experienced great success in the late-’50s and early ’60s. This particular album – the companion piece to 1972’s Capitol outing, ‘Soul Zodiac,’ where Cannonball’s band provided a musical backdrop to astrological narrations by DJ-cum-R&B ‘radio personality,’ Rick Holmes – was released in 1974 and has never been reissued before. Though off the radar of jazz purists – who would probably object strongly to Cannonball’s cross-pollination of jazz with funk and soul – it has acquired a cult status in recent years with crate-diggers and funk fanatics. Certainly, with George Duke contributing keyboards the funk quotient is palpably strong, as evidenced by ‘Leo: Rosebud.’ The focus, though, is on rich-voiced, super-smooth superfly dude, Rick Homes, whose spoken observations regarding the sexual proclivities of each of the twelve star signs is hilariously risible at times. Also, the focus on Holmes relegates Cannonball and his stellar musicians (including Nat Adderley on cornet) to the role of a backing band at times (albeit a top-notch one). It’s certainly not dull album, though, and functions as a fascinating curio in the canon of a veritable jazz giant that would die of a stroke a year later at the age of 46.
Look out for these other cult funk and jazz classics in the same series from BGP: ‘Janice’ by obscure soul singer Janice Barnett and her group; ‘Golden Wings’ by Airto Moreira-produced group Opa; ‘Dust Yourself Off’ by Oregon funkateers, Pleasure; ‘Colors’ by Latin fusion maestro, Raul De Souza; and ‘Listen To My Song’ by early ’70s Bay Area soulster, Darondo.