The Very Best of Cannonball Adderley encompasses a broad swath of the saxophonist's career, from the Portrait of Cannonball and Things Are Getting Better sessions in 1958 to the Inside Straight and Phenix sessions in 1973 and 1975, respectively. Everywhere along this 17-year continuum, says Ashley Kahn in his liner notes, Adderley demonstrates his ongoing commitment to playing for the benefit and satisfaction of the audience and not for that of the artist or the band.
The collection "serves as an exciting introduction to Adderley's 20-year journey, a career that ended far too soon in 1975, when a heart attack felled him at the young age of 46," says Kahn. "The performances, running mostly chronologically, have been taken from a number of timeless albums recorded for the Riverside and Fantasy labels, most with legendary producer Orrin Keepnews guiding the sessions. As the collective weight of the sidemen on this session reveals, Adderley had ears for great talent and commanded the necessary respect to recruit them."
The other consistent thread throughout the ten tracks, says Phillips, is Adderley's trademark soulfulness. "Whether he's playing a straight-ahead bebop-oriented tune like ‘A Little Taste,' the opening number, or getting downright funky with a track like ‘Inside Straight,' he was an artist who - while he had amazing technique - was foremost absolutely passionate and soulful in his playing. It's something that's evident at every point in his career, and certainly throughout this entire collection."