Adderly, Julian “Cannonball” 1928
Julian “Cannonball” Adderly 1928–1975
With a blues-based tone, modernist concepts inspired by Charlie Parker, and African-American religious themes, alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderly helped to define jazz trends of the postwar era. In the late 1950s Adderly emerged as a major exponent of hard bop, which was later known as soul jazz, and, as leader of his own band, Adderly landed two top-selling hits. During his twenty-year career, Adderly maintained a remarkable devotion to his music.
The son of a jazz cornetist, Julian Edwin Adderly was born on September 15, 1928, in Tampa, Florida. He began playing the saxophone at age 14 and two years later, fronted his own band at professional gigs. Known for his voracious appetite, Adderly’s high school friends originally nicknamed him “Cannibal,” and the name evolved into “Cannonball.” While attending Florida A&M University, he learned to play the trumpet and numerous reed instruments. Then in 1948 he began working as a teacher at Fort Lauderdale’s Dillard High School, a job he held intermittently until 1956.
In 1950 Adderly was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he earned the rank of sergeant. He not only joined the 36th Army Dance Band, but became the band’s leader. Other band members included such jazz greats as trombonist Curtis Fuller, pianist Junior Mance, and Adderly’s younger brother, Nat, a cornetist. Nat Adderly recalled in Down Beat, “Cannonball made some arrangement with the General, so basically all we ever played was dance music and we did very little with the marching band. We played with it on some official functions but other than that we worked with the normal big band of jazz groups.” Now living in Washington, D.C., Adderly studied music at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland. He also led an army band at Fort Knox, Kentucky from 1952 to 1953.
At the urging of jump blues saxophonist Eddie “Clean-head” Vinson, Adderly and his brother moved to New York City in 1955. It was not long before Adderly was sitting in with bassist Oscar Pettiford’s band at Greenwich Village’s popular club, Café Bohemia. When bandmember Jerome Richardson arrived late, Adderly filled in for the truant musician. His initiation to Pettiford’s band was fierce. Pettiford called out a furiously
At a Glance…
Born Julian Edwin Adderly on September 15, 1928, in Tampa, FL; died of a stroke on August 8, 1975, in Gary, IN. Education: Florida A&M University, attended until 1948; studied music at U.S. Naval Academy.
Career: Began professional career, c. 1944; taught at Dillard High School, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 1948-56; U.S. Army, bandleader, 1951-54; signed with Savoy label, 1955; led group with brother, Nat, 1956-57; member of Miles Davis band, 1957-59; organized second group as leader, 1959; led jazz workshops throughout his career.
Memberships: National Endowment for the Arts, Jazz Advisory Board.
paced version of “I’ll Remember April,” but Adderly, who had studied Charlie Parker’s alto saxophone solos, was more than prepared for the challenges of such a breakneck tempo. As jazz historian Leonard Feather wrote in the liner notes to Somethin’ Else, Adderly “met the challenge with a long solo that just about knocked Pettiford off the stand.”
Adderly, now a regular member of Pettiford’s band, then signed a contract with the Savoy label. Miles Davis, who regularly attended the band’s performances at the Café Bohemia, admired the 262-pound alto saxophonist. “Everybody knew right away that [Cannonball] was one of the best players around,” Davis said in his autobiography, Miles. “Even white critics were raving about his playing. All the record labels were running after him. Man, he was hot that quick.”
Adderly, much to the astonishment of several musicians, returned to his teaching job in the fall of 1955. However, encouraged by rave reviews and an increasing demand for his presence in New York, Adderly returned to the city in 1956. He formed his own quintet, which included his brother, Nat, pianist Junior Mance, and bassist Sam Jones. Financial difficulties, however, forced the group to disband in the fall of 1957.
In October of 1957 Adderly joined the Miles Davis Quintet, replacing Belgian saxophonist Bobby Jaspar. Davis recalled his early interest in Adderly’s musicianship in Miles, remarking, “I could almost hear him playing in my group the first time I heard him. He had that blues thing and I love me some blues.” Adderly remembered, as quoted in the book Milestones, “I had gotten an offer from [trumpeter] Dizzy [Gillespie] to go with his small band. I was opposite Miles at the Bohemia, told him I was going to join Dizzy, and Miles asked me why I didn’t join him. I told him he never asked me.” After a few months, Miles took Adderly on the Jazz for Moderns tour. Shortly thereafter, Davis expanded his group to a sextet, bringing together the saxophones of Adderly and John Coltrane. As Davis explained in Miles, “I felt that Cannonball’s blues-rooted alto sax up against Trane’s harmonic, chordal way of playing, his more free-form approach, would create a new kind of feeling.”
For two years the saxophones of Adderly and Coltrane, backed by the drums of “Philly” Joe Jones and the bass of Paul Chambers, fueled the creative fire of Davis’s group, producing a number of brilliant recordings such as Milestones in 1958 and 1959’s Kind of Blue, the latter featuring the jazz classics “So What” and “All Blues.” In 1958 Davis made a rare guest appearance on Adderly’s critically acclaimed solo album, Somethin’ Else —a session that also showcased the talents of pianist Hank Jones, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Art Blakey. Adderly’s reflections on his experiences with Davis’s group were quoted in Miles: A Biography: “I learned a lot with him. About spacing for one thing, when playing solos. Also he’s the master of understatement. And he taught me a lot about chords, as Coltrane did too.”
Adderly left Davis’s group in September of 1959 to reform his own quintet. The band reunited Nat Adderly and bassist Sam Jones, along with pianist Bobby Timmons and drummer Louis Hayes. The quintet played hard bop, which, unlike the cool jazz sound of the West Coast, wrote Dizzy Gillespie in To Be or Not to Bop, “reasserted the primacy of rhythm and the blues in our music and made you get funky with sweat to play it.” Hard bop, Gillespie added, “with its more earthy, churchy sound drew a lot of new black fans to our music.” David Rosenthal, in his book Hard Bop, wrote that “without renouncing Bebop’s discoveries, [hard bop] won broad popular appeal, reestablishing jazz as a staple product on ghetto jukeboxes.”
In the wake of hard bop’s popularity, Adderly’s group achieved instant success. His ensemble attracted a number of first-rate musicians, including Austrian-born pianist Joe Zawinul, who joined the band in 1961. Zawinul’s presence in turn enticed saxophonist/flutist Yusef Lateef to join, expanding the group to a sextet. “We did nothing but work 46-47 weeks a year,” recalled Zawinul in Down Beat, “often under the best circumstances. A lot of the time we really had fantastic fun.”
In the liner notes to The Cannonball Adderly Sextet in New York, jazz producer Orrin Keepnews wrote, “The saga of Cannonball Adderly’s band… has unquestionably been one of the most dazzling success stories in modern jazz history.” Adderly’s ensemble, unlike many jazz groups of the decade, scored radio hits with Zawinul’s compositions, “Mercy Mercy Mercy” in 1967 and “Country Preacher” in 1969. During this time, Adderly also collaborated with singers Nancy Wilson, Lou Rawls, and Sergio Mendes.
Throughout the 1970s, though afflicted by diabetes, Adderly continued to perform live in addition to appearing at jazz workshops. His workshop seminars consisted of demonstrations and lectures pertaining to both the musical and sociological aspects of jazz. In 1970 Zawinul left the group and was replaced by keyboardist George Duke. Commenting on his ten-year stay with Adderly, Zawinul told Down Beat, “The parting with Cannon is friendly. I’ll love him forever. It’s been a beautiful association.”
On August 8, 1975, the career of a brilliant musician ended when Adderly died from a stroke. Upon Adderly’s death, Dan Morgenstern wrote in Down Beat that the alto master was a “man whose horizon extended beyond musical matters.” In addition to his career, Adderly was a civil rights activist and a supporter of the arts. Adderly’s contributions to Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Operation Bread Basket and as a member of the Jazz Advisory Board of the National Endowment for the Arts reflected his commitment to the role of art and artists in social change. “Cannonball was a great artist,” commented Zawinul in Down Beat. “I never knew a musician who knew so much about different subjects. He always read Time and Newsweek, and he could discuss everything from heart surgery to politics. Cannon had more worldly wisdom than any musician I ever met.”
Presenting Cannonball Adderly, Savoy, 1955.
Cannonball: Jump for Joy, Mercury, 1955.
Somethin’ Else, Blue Note, 1958.
Milestones (with Miles Davis), Columbia, 1958.
Miles and Monk at Newport, Columbia, 1958.
Jazz at the Plaza, Columbia, 1958.
Things Are Getting Better (with Milt Jackson), Riverside, 1958.
Cannonball’s Shooters, Mercury, 1958.
Kind of Blue, Columbia, 1959.
The Cannonball Adderly Quintet in San Francisco, Riverside, 1959.
Cannonball Adderly in Chicago, Mercury, 1959.
At the Lighthouse, Riverside, 1960.
Them Dirty Blues, Riverside, 1960.
African Waltz, Riverside, 1961.
Cannonball Adderly Quintet Plus, Riverside, 1961.
The Cannonball Adderly Sextet in New York, Riverside, 1963.
Live Session! Cannonball Adderly with the New Exciting Voice of Ernie Andrews, Capitol, 1964.
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at the “Club,” Capitol, 1966.
Country Preacher, Capitol, 1969.
Inside Straight, Fantasy, 1973.
The Best of Cannonball Adderly: The Capitol Years, Capitol, 1990.
Carr, Ian, Miles: A Biography, William & Morrow, 1982.
Chambers, Jack, Milestones 1: The Music and Times of Miles Davis to 1960, William & Morrow, 1984.
Contemporary Musicians, Volume 15, Gale Research, 1995.
Davis, Miles, with Quincy Troupe, Miles: The Autobiography, Simon & Schuster, 1990.
Gillespie, Dizzy, To Be or Not to Bop: Memoirs, Doubleday, 1979.
Hentoff, Nat, Jazz Is, Limelight Editions, 1984.
Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis, William & Morrow, 1984.
Rosenthal, David, Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music 1955-1965, Oxford University Press, 1992.
Down Beat, January 8, 1970; September 11, 1970; December 10, 1970; October 28, 1971; October 9, 1975; June 15, 1978.
Jazz Journal International, May 1988.
Biography Resource Center, Gale, 2001, http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from liner notes by Leonard Feather to Somethin’ Else, Blue Note, 1959, and by Orrin Keepnews to Cannonball Adderly Sextet in New York, Riverside, 1963.
—John Cohassey and Jennifer M. York
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