Cannonball Adderley

cannonballhe became a high school band director at the Dillard High School/Fort Lauderdale (1948/50)in his native Florida , following in the footsteps of his educator-father(a trumpet player),before moving to New York in 1955. He initially planned to pursue graduate studies in Manhattan; but after sitting in with Oscar Pettiford’s band at the Cafe Bohemia, the alto saxophonist became an instant sensation, hailed by many as the musician most likely to e the mantle of the late Charlie Parker. Despite misguided promotional efforts to christen him as “the new Bird,” Adderley clearly had his own approach to the horn, which drew on the inspiration of Benny Carter as well as Parker. He took advantage of his early notoriety, however, by forming his first quintet, which featured his younger brother Nat Adderley on cornet. While the group struggled economically, Cannonball did draw the attention of Miles Davis,who featured the alto saxophonist in the immortal Miles Davis sextet (alongside John Coltrane and either Red Garland, Bill Evans,or Wynton Kelly) for two years beginning in late 1957. In September 1959, Cannonball left Davis and reunited with Nat in a new Cannonball Adderley quintet. Recorded live one month later at San Francisco’s Jazz Workshop, the band became an immediate success with their version of Bobby Timmons’s sanctified waltz “This Here” and a leading practitioner of what came to be called soul jazz. Numerous other hits followed over the next 16 years as the band occasionally swelled to sextet size (with the inclusion of Yusef Lateef or Charles Lloyd) and featured such important pianist/composers as Barry Harris, Victor Feldman, Joe Zawinul,George Duke, and Hal Galper. Sam Jones and Louis Hayes formed the original rhythm section, to be succeeded later by Victor Gaskin,Walter Booker, and Roy McCurdy. At the heart of the group’s success throughout its existence were Cannonball, one of the most impassioned alto (and, later, soprano) saxophonists in jazz history, and Nat,whose infectious compositions (including “Work Song” and “Jivesamba”) formed a critical part of the band’s book.

While a knack for interpreting funky crossover material such as Zawinul’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” won the Adderley quintet one of the jazz world’s largest audiences, Cannonball’s personality also played a pivotal role in sustaining the band’s prominence among fans worldwide. He was the most articulate and engaging of musicians,and he invariably educated his listeners with wry commentary that illuminated the music. He was also a voracious listener and talent scout who introduced several prominent musicians through both employing them in his ensemble and serving as a studio record producer. Cannonball was the one who called Wes Montgomery to the attention of Riverside Records, produced the debut recording of Chuck Mangione, and collaborated so brilliantly with a young Nancy Wilson. The open, affirmative personality he displayed on stage was reflected in his music, which over time was touched by the subtle eloquence of his former boss Miles Davis and the exploratory intensity of his Davis colleague John Coltrane.

Adderley also served as a prominent spokesperson for jazz through extensive television work and residencies at several universities.Shortly before his death following a stroke, he had recorded his original music for “Big Man,” a “folk musical” based upon the life of John Henry.

One of the great alto saxophonists,Cannonball Adderley had an exuberant and happy sound (as opposed to many of the more serious stylists of his generation) that communicated immediately to listeners. His intelligent presentation of his music (often explaining what he and his musicians were going to play) helped make him one of the most popular of all jazzmen.Adderley already had an established career as a high school band director in Florida when during a 1955 visit to New York he was persuaded to sit in with Oscar Pettiford’s group at the Cafe Bohemia. His playing created such a sensation that he was soon signed to Savoy and persuaded to play jazz full – time in New York. With his younger brother cornetist Nat, Cannonball formed a quintet that struggled until its breakup in 1957. Adderley then joined Miles Davis, forming part of his super sextet with John Coltrane and participating on such classic recordings as and Kind of Blue. Adderley’s second attempt to form a quintet with his brother was much more successful for in 1959 with pianist Bobby Timmons he had a hit recording of “This Here.” From then on, Cannonball always was able to work steadily with his band. During its Riverside years (1959 – 63), the Adderley Quintet primarily played soulful renditions of hard bop and Cannonball really excelled in the straightahead settings. During 1962 – 63 Yusef Lateef made the group a sextet and pianist Joe Zawinul was an important new member. The collapse of Riverside resulted in Adderley signing with Capitol and his recordings became gradually more commercial.Charles Lloyd was in Lateef’s place for a year (with less success) and then with his departure the group went back to being a quintet. Zawinul’s 1966 composition “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” was a huge hit for the group, Adderley started doubling on soprano and the Quintet’s later recordings emphasized long melody statements, funky rhythms and electronics. However during his last year,Cannonball Adderley was revisiting the past a bit and on Phenix he recorded new versions of many of his earlier numbers. But before he could evolve his music any further, Cannonball Adderley died suddenly from a stroke.

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Records:

Cannonball Adderley – Something ´Else(Miles Davis), Blue Note

Cannonnball Adderley (Soul of the Bible), Fun in the Church, Capitol, 1972

Cannonball Adderley – Stay on it, Jazz Wax Records

Cannonball Adderley- Them Dirty Blues, Capitol

Cannonball Adderley – the End of a Love Affair, High Fidelity

Cannonball Adderley – Straight, No Chaser, Jazz Wax Records

Kenny Rice and Richard Martin ft. Nat Adderley – Nat´s Tune, Promo

Cannonball Adderley – Blues for Christmas, Milestone Records

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