June 22, 2024


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Adderley was one of the progenitors of the swinging, rhythmically robust style of music that became known as hard-bop: Video

15.09. – Happy Bithday!!! Both as the leader of his own bands as well as an alto and soprano saxophone stylist, Julian Edwin “Cannonball” Adderley was one of the progenitors of the swinging, rhythmically robust style of music that became known as hard-bop.

Born September 15, 1928, into a musical family in Florida, Adderley was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1950. He became leader of the 36th Army Dance Band, led his own band while studying music at the U.S. Naval Academy and then led an army band while stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Originally nicknamed “Cannibal” in high school for his voracious appetite, the nickname mutated into “Cannonball” and stuck.

In 1955, Adderley traveled to New York City with his younger brother and lifelong musical partner, Nat Jr. (cornet). The elder Adderley sat in on a club date with bassist Oscar Pettiford and created such a furvor that he was signed almost immediately to a recording contract and was often (if not entirely accurately) called “the new Bird.”

Adderley’s direct style on alto was indebted to the biting clarity of Charlie Parker, but it also significantly drew from the warm, rounded tones of Benny Carter; hard swingers such as Louis Jordan and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson were important influences as well. Adderly became a seminal influence on the hard-driving style known as hard-bop, and could swing ferociously at faster tempos, yet he was also an effective and soulful ballad stylist.

From 1956-57, Adderley led his own band featuring Nat, pianist Junior Mance and bassist Sam Jones. The group broke up when he was invited to join the Miles Davis Quintet in 1957. Davis expanded his group to a Sextet soon thereafter by hiring saxophonist John Coltrane. “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,” Davis explained in his autobiography.

From 1957-59, Adderley recorded some of his best work on the landmark Davis albums Milestones and Kind of Blue within this sextet. Davis reciprocated with a guest appearance on Adderly’s 1958 solo album Somethin’ Else, which also included bassist Jones, pianist Hank Jones, and drummer Art Blakey.

Adderley left the Davis band to reform his quintet in 1959, this time with his brother, Sam Jones, pianist Bobby Timmons and drummer Louis Hayes. Yusef Lateef made it a sextet around 1962; pianist Joe Zawinul replaced Timmons around 1963. Other band alumni include Charles Lloyd, and pianists Barry Harris, Victor Feldman and George Duke.

Adderley recorded for Riverside from 1959-63, for Capitol thereafter until 1973, and then for Fantasy. He suffered a stroke while on tour and died on August 8, 1975. He can also be found on recordings led by Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Wes Montgomery, Art Blakey and Oscar Peterson, and collaborated with singers Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Joe Williams, Lou Rawls, Sergio Mendes and Nancy Wilson.

During the period when the burgeoning development of polyrhythms and polytonality threatened to make jazz harder for non-musicians to appreciate, the Cannonball Adderley bands (much like bands led by Art Blakey and Horace Silver) helped preserve the music’s roots in the more readily understood (and more funky) vocabulary of gospel and blues.

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