This Sunday, Dec.16th, we’ll be doing “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” during the 1st set. Sorry for getting these notes by Dan Wallach posted so late.

The tune “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” was written by Joe Zawinul in 1966, and was recorded on Cannonball Adderley’s recording Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! ‘Live at The Club’. The song was a surprise commercial success, reaching No. 11 on the Billboard charts in 1967. The tune represented the attempt to bring jazz to a wider audience and regain the music’s popularity by adding elements of soul and pop music.

The harmony of the tune has a strong Blues and Gospel sound. The chord progression oscillates between Bb and Eb, which is the four chord in the key of Bb, for the first 15 bars. The lack of much harmonic change, allows the soloist to explore a wide array of scale choices. Initially, try improvising on the tones of the major pentatonic scale (1-2-3-5-6); these are the tones of the melody in a different order. The next area to explore is the Blues scale (Bb-Db-Eb-E-F-Ab). Using a combination of these two choices will work well. The previously mentioned scales are just two of many choices. Please explore for yourself in order to find other sound you like. The final 5 bars start by going up to the five chord (similar to a Blues), then travels to the two chord, the three chord and lastly six to five, before returning to the top of the form. All the chords in the last five bars are contained within the key of Bb.

Please be aware of the odd number of bars in this progression (20). Lastly, be prepared to play the 13-15 bars as a background in each solo.