Saturday, June 23, 2018

Cannonball Adderley Quintet - "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" & Speculation About What The Saying "Mercy Mercy, Mercy" Means

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post presents information about the 1966 Jazz classic "Mercy Mercy Mercy" and showcases a YouTube sound file of Cannonball Adderley Quintet's 1966 performance of that composition.

Information about the meaning of the words "Mercy", Mercy, Mercy" in that composition are included in this post along with selected comments from that sound file's discussion thread.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Joe Zawinul for composing this song and thanks to him and other members of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet for their musical legacy. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publisher of this sound file on YouTube.

"Definition of mercy; plural: mercies
"1 a : compassion or forbearance (see forbearance 1) shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power; also : lenient or compassionate treatment begged for mercy
b : imprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder
2 a : a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion May God have mercy on us.
b : a fortunate circumstance it was a mercy they found her before she froze
3 : compassionate treatment of those in distress works of mercy among the poor
— mercy adjective
— at the mercy of
: wholly in the power of : with no way to protect oneself against"
"Lord have mercy [on my soul], also found as "Lord have mercy [on me]", are plaintive pleas for God's mercy. presents this definition for "Laud Have Mercy" [Lord have mercy] *
"laud have mercy
Lawd have mercy is the phonetic spelling of the expression "Lord have mercy". The pronunciation of the word "lawd" is a cultural colloquialism, historically common within rural blacks in the South. It can still be heard today especially among the older generations. "Lord have mercy on us" has origins from the Biblical scripture Psalm 123:3-4 & is usually expressed in times of trouble or worry. Also, a broader more generic usage can denote surprise or wonder.
Example 1: "laud have mercy or Lord have mercy! What is the world coming to?"
Example 2: "laud have mercy or Lord have mercy! How did he do that so quickly?"
#lord'a mercy!#laus'a mercy!#help me jesus!#oh my god!#heaven help us!

by wordsworld December 20, 2014"
"Laud have mercy" is an incorrect approximation of African American Vernacular English exclamation "Lawd have mercy" and "Laus'a mercy" is an offensive representation of how some African Americans have pronounced and/or continue to pronounce "Lord have mercy".

Derived from African American culture, "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!" may also mean that you are feeling God's mercy, i.e. you are being moved by (feel) the Holy Spirit) and are in a state of exaltation, although this may be limited to folks over fifty.
: an act of exalting : the state of being exalted
2 : an excessively intensified sense of well-being, power, or importance
3 : an increase in degree or intensity"

In that sense, the exclamation "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!" can be the same as or very similar in meaning to the exclamations "Amen!" and "Hallelujah!".

As stated in Cannonball Adderley's introduction to this composition (quoted as comment #2 below), I think that definition 1a and 2a as given above for the word "mercy" are probably the original meaning of the word "mercy" in the Jazz composition "Mercy Mercy Mercy".

However, I believe that the saying "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!" can [also] refer to the same or similar states of exaltation in non-religious contexts such as during a superlative Jazz performance.

In other words, I think that someone exclaiming "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" may mean that he or she is experiencing (or has experienced) something that is painfully good, i.e. something that results in such a heightened sense of joy, (rapture, pleasure). You are "at the mercy" of those feelings (" wholly in the power of") those feelings, but you aren't asking for mercy (relief/help) from those feelings or those experiences. In religious as well as non-religious contexts, people might "shout" or exclaim "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!" and/or other African American associated affirmation/s of appreciation such as "(Well), Alright now!", "Preach!" and "Yeah!".*

*Read a number of such comments below from the YouTube discussion thread for the Cannonball Adderley Quintet's "Mercy Mercy Mercy!" sound file which include these types of African American originated exclamations.

Excerpt #1:
"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" is a jazz song written by Joe Zawinul in 1966 for Julian "Cannonball" Adderley and his album Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at 'The Club'. The song is the title track of the album and became a surprise hit.[1] "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" went to #2 on the Soul chart and #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[2]

Original version
The original version was performed by: Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone), Nat Adderley (cornet), Joe Zawinul (piano, electric piano), Victor Gaskin (bass) and Roy McCurdy (drum)"...

Excerpt #2:
"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at "The Club" is a 1966 album by jazz musician Julian "Cannonball" Adderley.[1] It received the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance – Group or Soloist with Group in 1967.[2] Though the original liner notes state that it was recorded at the Club DeLisa in Chicago, it was actually recorded at Capitol's Hollywood studio with an invited audience and an open bar.[3] The reason for this discrepancy, according to the liner notes in the CD reissue, is that Adderley and the new manager of Club DeLisa (which had been renamed "The Club", after operating for years in Chicago under its old name) were friends, and Adderley offered to give the club a bit of free publicity.

The title track became a surprise hit, reaching #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. On this album, Joe Zawinul played a Wurlitzer electric piano; however, subsequent live performances saw him taking up the new and mellower-sounding Fender Rhodes instrument.

The title track has been covered numerous times (usually with lyrics added), perhaps most successfully by the Buckinghams in 1967.[citation needed]


The Allmusic review by Steve Huey awarded the album 5 stars and states: "Adderley's irrepressible exuberance was a major part of his popularity, and no document captures that quality as well -- or with such tremendous musical rewards -- as Mercy, Mercy, Mercy."[6] The Penguin Guide to Jazz awarded the album 3 out of 4 stars, stating: "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy is a hard swinging live album with one of Cannon's hottest outings on 'Sticks'.".[7]"...

SHOWCASE EXAMPLE: Cannonball Adderley Quintet - "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" (1966)

Anthony Valente's Jazz Channel, Published on Nov 15, 2012
Cannonball Adderley Quintet: Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone); Nat Adderley (cornet); Joe Zawinul (acoustic & electric pianos); Victor Gaskin (bass); Roy McCurdy (drums).

Recording information: Capitol studios, Los Angeles, CA (10/20/1966).
Selected comments from this discussion thread, with numbers added for referencing purposes only. With the exception of comments #1 -#3, these selected comments are given in relative chronological order based on the year of their publication (with the oldest comments given first except for replies)

1. Giorgio De Marco, 2015
"what does cannonbal say at the beginning of the song? thanks for the answers"

2. Rodolfo PĂ©rez, 2015
"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy...
You know, sometimes we're not prepared for adversity, When it happens sometimes we’re caught short. We don’t know exactly how to handle it when it comes up. Sometimes we don’t know just what to do when adversity takes over and I have advice for all of us. I got it from my pianist Joe Zawinul who wrote this tune and it sounds like what you’re supposed to say when you have that kind of problem and its called Mercy, Mercy, Mercy."

3. Dbravius Blackwell, 2016
"This song sings a million words without having one being spoken. It has that "What's Goin' On" feeling (of course this being earlier) and it seems to evoke images of everyday struggles of life during that time with the civil rights movement, the vietnam war, and many other problems that in the end, all one could say was.....mercy, mercy, mercy!"
"What's Goin On"= Marvin Gaye's 1971 R&B/Soul composition with that title; video:

4. Bob Benham, 2012
"This tune oozes with soul and brings a smile : )"

5. Max Films, 2013
"That's just the jazz I need to make it through adversity."

6. Thomas Romine, 2014
" "sometimes we are caught short" meaning without all you need."

7. JSMN, 2014
"this had to have been recorded in a church"

8. franzia1499, 2014
"It was actually recorded in a normal studio, but to give it that live feel, they let about 20-30 people in and provided an open bar."

9. Jack Guariento, 2014
"+franzia1499 actually guys, hate to break it to ya, but this is a live recording from Newport Jazz Festival"

10. Doc Brown, 2014
"+Jacky .g actually franzia is right, it was originally listed as the club delisa on the album, but it is actually in studio"

11. franzia1499, 2014
"+Doc Brown Thanks for backing me up on my claim. It's even acknowledged on the band's official site. Cannonball was friends with the owner of The Club DeLisa in Chicago at the time, so he wanted to offer the establishment some more publicity, even though it was recorded at Capitol studios in Los Angeles."

12. Anakin Dey, 2017
"It's not recorded at that club actually. It was in studio but they invited 20-30 people into the studio with an open bar. Cannonball just put the name of the club on because he was friends with the owner and wanted to give them some publicity"

13. Beau Jan Gels, 2018
"I'm not sure if Adderley's next crossover success, Country Preacher, was recorded in a church or not. It was recorded at a fundraiser for a project associated with Jesse Jackson in the days when Jackson was known more as a preacher than a politician. The crowd on that recording has much the same vibe."
Click a YouTube sound file of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet's 1969 performance of "Country Preacher".

14. poetcomic1, 2014
"I remember when black fans actually patronized jazz clubs and audiences didn't sit reverently silent like white audiences do NOW. OH BABY, SAY IT!"

15. Levon Peter Muhammad Salah Setyowan Poe, 2014
"So beautiful and appropriate for the times. Joe Zawinul - future weather report co-founder -composed this timeless tune"

16. BuckshotLaFunke1, 2015
"'Walk Tall', Cary Ginell's biography on Cannonball, states that this was recorded before an audience of friends and families at Capitol Towers (the record company), called 'the Capitol Club' for that occasion."

17. smoked fish/chicken, 2016
"Always remember to persevere."

18. Robert Karanja, 2016
"An amazing song. Preach, preacher, preach!"
"Preacher" here means Cannonball Adderley (in his introduction to this composition), and (I believe) the musicians who are preaching ["telling it like it is"] in their performance of this composition.

19. Jim Hendricks, 2016
"I love it - at 2:04 "Play that thing!"
This the best slow burn groove...

20. Bogus Smogus, 2016
"What does he yell at 0:45?"

21. kurt11110, 2016
"Brian Jones he said "go joe !"
"Go Joe" is an exhortation to pianist Joe Zawinul to continue playing so well

22. T K, 2016
"what a recording! you can really feel the atmosphere and how the audience is feeding off of zawinul's every note..."

23. Luke Vaughan, 2017
"Cool, when cool was cool !"

24. Mathieu Deraspe, 2017
"What I wouldn't give to have been present during this live recording, in the crowd, watching a brief piece of musical history..."

25. Vincent Franklin, 2017
"Really dig this!"
"Really dig this" means "I [really] like this!"

26. blessedchica, 2018
"Vincent Franklin I hear you, man!"
"I hear you" = I hear what you are saying [what you said] and I agree with you."

27. Ethel Stevens Love, 2017
"What a great smooth jazz classic....."

28. Reagan McCann, 2017
"It's definitely not smooth jazz lol, but it is indeed a classic."

29. blessedchica, 2018
"Ethel Stevens Love ...def not smooth jazz; its the real thing--Jazz! :-)"

30. Jude F., 2018
"This is such a soulful tune and performance, I don't know how the song got transformed into a perky uptempo jazz standard (Buddy Rich's version is one of the worst) or pop tune (the lyrics to that Buckinghams version sure don't jibe with Cannonball's introduction). Joe Zawinul's solo is really minimalist but it fits the mood of the song perfectly--which makes sense seeing that he wrote it."

31. Below Average Joe, 2018
"This was Smooth Jazz before Smooth Jazz. It blows my mind how perceptive Joe Zawinul was. He wrote a song that was about as Gospel feeling as possible when he was raised in an entirely different tradition. The man to truly soak up African America culture to create the way he did."

32. sauquoit13456, 2018
"On this day in 1967 {March 4th} 'Cannonball' Adderley performed "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy"* on the Dick Clark ABC-TV Saturday-afternoon program 'American Bandstand'...
At the time the song was in it's second of two weeks at #11 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, that was also it's peak position on the chart, plus it spent eleven weeks on the Top 100...
The following week it peaked at #3 {for 1 week} on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart...
Besides "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy", the Florida native had four other Top 100 records, "African Waltz" {#41 in 1961}, "The Jive Samba" {#66 in 1963}, "Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)" {#73 in 1967}, and "Country Preacher" {#86 in 1970}...
Julian Edwin 'Cannonball' Adderley passed away at the young age of 46 on August 8th, 1975 {cerebral hemorrhage}...
May he R.I.P.
*Three other versions of "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" also charted in 1967; the Buckinghams {#5}, Marlena Shaw {#58}, and Larry Williams & Johnny Watson {#96}..."

33. Crunkboy415, 2018
"Who knew the two greats of jazz, Cannonball Adderley and Joe Zawinul create a great 60s soul hit."

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1 comment:

  1. I believe that it's important to highlight the fact that Joe Zawinul, the composer of the soulful* Jazz standard/classic "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!" and the pianist in the Cannonball Adderley Quintet which first recorded that composition was White.
    "Josef Erich "Joe" Zawinul (7 July 1932 – 11 September 2007)[1] was an Austrian jazz keyboardist and composer.

    First coming to prominence with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, Zawinul went on to play with trumpeter Miles Davis, and to become one of the creators of jazz fusion, an innovative musical genre that combined jazz with elements of rock and world music. Later, he co-founded the groups Weather Report and The Zawinul Syndicate. He pioneered the use of electric piano and synthesizer, and was named "Best Electric Keyboardist" twenty-eight times by the readers of Down Beat magazine.[2]"...
    *In this context, the word "soulful" doesn't mean "expressing deep or sorrowful emotions"- the meaning for that word which appears to be usually given online.

    Instead, I mean "pertaining to Black American culture", where being deeply and openly expressive is usually valued more than in most non-Black American cultures.