Mike Gudbaur

Mike Gudbaur

The Fine Arts at First concert series wraps up its 14th season Sunday afternoon (May 5) with a jazz program.

The concert starts at 3 p.m. at First United Methodist Church of Kenosha, 919 60th St.

The Fine Arts Jazz Ensemble will present the program, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!”: A Tribute to Julian “Cannonball” Adderley.

The group includes Sue Crawford, vocals; Curt Hanrahan, clarinet/alto saxophone; Steve Jacob, tenor saxophone; Jamie Breiwick, trumpet; Ken Wiele Jr., trombone; Brian Harris, piano; Mike Gudbaur, bass; and Paul Griffin, drums.

Bandleader Gudbaur, when asked why alto saxophonist Adderley was chosen as the focused artist for this year’s concert, said, “I chose Cannonball Adderly because he was one of the few jazz musicians who could cross over into appealing to a large audience without compromising his jazz credentials.

“Make no mistake, he was an innovator and improviser of the highest order, but he had a warm, honeyed tone that was completing inviting, and his bluesy bends and inflections added an instant familiarity to his playing.”

The concert will feature Adderly’s most famous tune, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”

“It became a radio hit for him and was eventually recorded with lyrics by the rock group The Buckinghams in 1966,” Gudbaur said. “It went on to be recorded by dozens of artists from Buddy Rich to Queen Latifah. He also recorded a popular album with vocalist Nancy Wilson, and we’ll be performing the hit ‘Save Your Love for Me’ from that album.”

Adderley performed during the “hard bop” era of the 1950s and 1960s. He was the older brother of jazz trumpeter Nat Adderley, a longtime member of his band.

A native of Tampa, Fla., Adderley’s nickname derived from “cannibal,” a title imposed on him by high school colleagues as a tribute to his voracious appetite.

Both Adderly brothers played with Ray Charles during the early 1940s. Adderley moved to Broward County, Florida in 1948 after finishing his music studies at Florida A&M University and became the band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, a position which he held until 1950.

He left Florida originally to seek graduate studies at New York conservatories, but one night in 1955 he brought his saxophone with him to the Café Bohemia. Asked to sit in with Oscar Pettiford in place of his band’s regular saxophonist, who was late for the gig, the “buzz” on the New York jazz scene after Adderley’s performance announced him as the heir to the mantle of Charlie Parker.

Adderley formed his own group signing onto the Savoy jazz label in 1957. He was noticed by Miles Davis, and it was because of his blues-rooted alto saxophone that Davis asked him to play with his group. Adderley then played on the seminal Davis records, “Milestones” and “Kind of Blue.”

His interest as an educator carried over to his recordings. In 1961, Cannonball narrated “The Child’s Introduction to Jazz,” released on Riverside Records.

Doors open at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for the 3 p.m. concert. Admission is free; donations will be accepted. After the performance, audience members are invited to a free reception. For more information, visit fineartsatfirst.org.

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