Adderley, Cannonball (Julian Edwin)

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Adderley, Cannonball (Julian Edwin)

Adderley, Cannonball (Julian Edwin), jazz alto saxophonist, one of the masters on his instrument; brother of Nat Adderley; b. Tampa, Fla., Sept. 15, 1928; d. Gary, Ind., Aug. 8, 1975. Nicknamed “Cannonball” (originally “Cannibal” due to his large appetite), Julian began playing saxophone in 1942. He was a precocious student and graduated from Fla. A & M. Coll. in 1946. The following year he began working as music teacher and band director at Dillard H.S. in Fort Lauderdale, performing locally. Drafted in 1952, Adderley conducted and played lead alto in an army dance band at Fort Knox in Ky. He declined a commission to become a sergeant because officers could not be performers. He then studied at the naval music school in Washington, D.C., and performed around town. In 1955 he and his brother, cornetist Nat, visited N.Y. On his second night there, “Cannonball” created a sensation when he sat in with Oscar Pettiford’s group at Cafe Bohemia. He began recording on June 26 and led his own band for a while, then joined Miles Davis from October 1957 until September 1959, when he and Nat reformed their quintet, this time for good. The group became one of jazz’s most popular, thanks in part to Nat’s hit “Work Song” It experienced an even wider success with its early fusion gospel hit “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (written by Joe Zawinul) in 1966. Adderley is seen briefly on screen during the first film Clint Eastwood directed, Play Misty for Me (1971). He also appeared on BBC-TV Theatre (May 12, 1964). In later years he infrequently played soprano saxophone. In July 1975, Adderley suffered a stroke while on tour, and died thereafter. His legacy deeply affected Kenny Garrett, Richie Cole, Mike Smith, and many others.


Presenting C. A. (1955); Spontaneous Combustion (1955); Alabama Concerto (1958); Somethin’ Else (1958, with Miles Davis); Cannonball and Coltrane (1959); Know What I Mean? (1961, with Bill Evans); Live in Japan (1963); Fiddler on the Roof (1964); Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at the It Club (1966); 74 Miles Away/Walk Tall (1967); Accent on Africa (1968); In Person (1970); Black Messiah (1972).

—Gig Brown