With Cannonball, Richie Cole and his crew deliver fourteen selections, each of which is associated with the album's namesake, Cannonball Adderley. Cole has admired Adderley since their meeting when Cole was a student at Berklee School of Music. The album is a terrific salute and it once more confirms Cole as a leading flamekeeper of the straight-ahead tradition of bop alto sax.
Across the session, Cole is animated and energized and delivers his tributes with a personal stamp. Slick and soulful, and with a deep sense of swing, he's got plenty of surprises up his sleeve here. For example, cornet player Nat Adderley's absence is addressed by the inclusion of trombonist Reggie Watkins. The combination of Cole's bright alto and Watkins mellow bone gives deep flavor to the lines of the Adderley canon ("Del Sasser," "Dat Dere," and "Sack o Woe"). Another surprise is a risky up-tempo take on the originally more soulful Adderley brothers' classic "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy." "Jive Samba" elicits none and is covered in genuine boogaloo style. It's a stone cooker.
Cole's magic wand is a Selmer. And his technical chopsalways solid and worn lightlyallow him to work his tricks with puckish flair on "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" and the hard-swinging "Jeanine," "Bell of the Ball" and the Latinesque "Azule Serape." His lines and scat-like inflections are trademarks of a true jazz master. Watkins improv approach dovetails perfectly with Cole's style. He's got a strong J.J. Johnson influence with a great sound ("Stars Fell on Alabama," "Save Your Love for Me") and deep swing ("Toy"). Cole's arranging skillswhich resemble his playing effervescenceare on fine display throughout.
The rhythm section offers superior support across the session, buying into the joy up front. Guests drummer Roger Humphries and altoists Kenny Blake and Tony Campbell hit on single tracks. Vocalist Kenia guests on two different language takes (Portuguese and English) of the laid back "Save Your Love for Me."
Cannonball is a worthy tribute to one of jazz's greatest by another. It's also a lot of fun. Go ahead and powder up.
Del Sasser, Dat Dere, Stars Fell on Alabama, Matchmaker Matchmaker, Jeannine, Jive Samba, Bell of the Ball, Sack o' Woe, Mercy Mercy Mercy, Save Your Love for Me, Toy, Azule Serape, Unit 7, Save Your Love for Me.
Richie Cole: alto saxophone; Reggie Watkins: trombone; Kevin Moore: acoustic and electric piano; Eric Susoeff: guitar; Mark Perna: bass; Vince Taglieri: drums; J.D. Chaisson: trumpet (2-5); Rick Matt: tenor saxophone (2-5); Roger Humphries: drums (8); Kenny Blake: alto saxophone (13); Tony Campbell: alto saxophone (12); Kenia: vocals (10, 14).