June 24, 2024


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Cannonball Adderley was not only an important and influential figure in the evolution of postbop and soul jazz … Video

15.09. – Happy Birthday !!! The saxophonist and bandleader Cannonball Adderley was not only an important and influential figure in the evolution of postbop and soul jazz, he was also by most accounts a man with a message and a personality who was generally beloved by his fellow musicians.

Performing during a time when jazz artists seemed averse to talking with the audience, Adderley earned a reputation for his rambling onstage monologues, both serious and comic. What’s most disappointing about this biography by author, discographer and music historian Cary Ginell is that we experience little of that ebullience. Even those monologues seem less engaging on the printed page.

Ginell’s prose is clean and crisp with only an occasional hyperbolic misstep, so it’s not so much a matter of style as content. This biography does an impressive job of recounting the events of Adderley’s life-his gigs, recordings, television appearances, band personnel-and in the process uncovers lesser-known facts. We learn, for instance, that Adderley was a prodigy who graduated from college at 18 and soon learned to teach music. But unlike, say, recent biographies of Thelonious Monk or Lena Horne, this volume doesn’t bring you much closer to understanding the person behind the music. And that’s a pity.

The biographer’s notes on sources reveal that he interviewed just five people for this book. However you slice it, that figure seems incredibly low for a serious biography. Certainly it’s true that many of Adderley’s closest peers and associates have passed away, but that obstacle didn’t stop Robin D.G. Kelley from defining Monk as a human being. Adderley had a close relationship, both professional and personal, with his brother, trumpeter/cornetist Nat, but the relationship is never really explained. There is also little historical context provided, as though it is presumed the reader is well aware of the tumultuous events and trends whirling around the world of jazz and African-American society during the ’50s and ’60s.

In his Preface to Dis Here Chris Sheridan describes discography as “the nuts and bolts” of jazz. It is a well chosen metaphor, for without discographies it would be impossible to assemble the history of the art form or to establish the place in that history of the idiom’s individual musicians and the units they were members of.

Sheridan, of course, some time ago raised the bar for those having the temerity to commit to the exacting discipline and rigorous scholarship that discographical research demands. He did this with his 1986 Count Basie: A Bio-Discography, also published by Greenwood Press. It remains the definitive record of the Basie band’s recording and touring history up to the death of its leader in 1984. A deservedly epic account of the career of a musician who was of truly heroic stature, that 1350-page work has been since its appearance a major model for bio-discographical publication and an inspiration to all jazz discographers. Sheridan refines his approach to the genre with Dis Here: A Bio-Discography of Julian “Cannonball” Adderley.

Limited space confines this reviewer to general observations on this state-of-the-art contribution to jazz scholarship. In short, be confident that virtually no released documentation of the musical sounds of Cannonball Adderley or documented date on his itinerary is overlooked and omitted by Sheridan. As for the “bio” aspect of the volume, one can track the career of the legendary saxophonist from a riveting account of his New York debut at Cafe Bohemia on June 19,1955, to the somber telling of his July 13, 1975, collapse at a motel in Gary, Indiana, and death a month later. This narrative time-line (which runs throughout the discographical portion of the book) of the gigs, sessions, and tours holds up as an absorbing story in itself and can be read as such with great interest and enjoyment. As in his earlier work on Basie, Sheridan’s discographical catalogue includes not only authorized commercial releases but bootlegged items that reached the marketplace as well, these latter being, in his correct and now generally accepted view, “valid, even necessary ingredients for the modern discography.” Mining myriad sources of a far-reaching lode — his “Acknowledgements” reads like a Who’s Who of Adderley authorities – – Sheridan has chased down those “nuts and bolts” of Cannonball’s career. The narrative is accompanied by sidebars of comments from the press of the day and, for the musicologically inclined, some of the recorded performances are accompanied by tempo-indicating notations.

Three appendices list all releases on 45rpm, EP, LP, CD, MInidisc, and tape; “all known commercially produced films and videos in which Mr. Adderley took part”; and a bibliography. There is a general index, an index of musicians and singers heard in the recordings, and an index of tunes that cites composers and lyricists.

Dis Here, like Sheridan’s Count Basie, is a monumental production, a volume that no discographer, or serious admirer of Cannonball’s artistry, can afford to be without.

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