Cannonball Adderley

Artist Page Includes artist biography and links to their articles at NDIM

Julian “Cannonball” Adderley burst on the jazz scene in 1955 after sitting in with Oscar Pettiford’s group at the Cafe Bohemia. His playing got him pegged as “the new Bird”, but Adderley had his own approach to the alto saxophone and to jazz in general.

While with Davis, Adderley grew as a player. He learned a lot from Miles about the use of space, and his solos became more sparing and direct. In 1958 he released the album Somethin’ Else, working with Davis and Art Blakey and recording classic renditions of “Autumn Leaves” and “Love For Sale”. The following year, Adderley played on Davis’ groundbreaking Kind of Blue album, acquitting himself very well alongside John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and Paul Chambers.

Adderley was born in Tampa, Florida on September 15, 1928. His father was a trumpet player and educator, and Julian followed in his Dad’s footsteps, becoming a high school band director at Dillard High in Fort Lauderdale. He moved to New York in ’55 with the intention of pursuing graduate studies, but following his debut at the Bohemia he decided to form his own quintet, featuring his younger brother, Nat, on cornet. The group was not a commercial success, but Miles Davis did ask Julian to play in his sextet from late 1957 until 1959. The group recorded such albums as Milestones and Miles And Monk At Newport.

Near the end of ’59, Cannonball Adderley, as he was known, formed a new quintet, again featuring his brother Nat. This group became quite popular following their live recording at San Francisco’s Jazz Workshop. The quintet’s cover of the Bobby Timmons tune “This Here” earned them a reputation as leading players of a style known as soul jazz. The group continued to record and play live throughout the 1960s and was very popular. At times Adderly would add a tenor sax to the lineup in the persons of Yusef Lateef or Charles Lloyd.

Over the 16 years that he led the Cannonball Adderley quintet, it included such musicians as Barry Harris, Victor Feldman, George Duke, Same Jones, Louis Hayes, Wlter Booker, Victor Gaskin, Hal Galper, and Joe Zawinul, who penned the soulful, funky hit “Mercy Mercy Mercy”. The song became a huge hit for the goup in 1967 as played on their roof-raising live album of the same name. The album also featured two Nat Adderley compositions, “Fun” and “Games”, and Julian’s own fine composition “Sack O’ Woe”.

Cannonball Adderley, “Work Song”

While some accused Cannonball Adderley of “selling out” due to the enormous popularity of his group’s funky crossover hits, he maintained that the hits allowed him the opportunity to expose his audiences to other music they would never have listened to before. He was a tireless cheerleader for jazz music, using his winning personality and sense of humor to win audiences over in a seemingly effortless fashion. He helped Wes Montgomery obtain a recording contract with Riverside Records, produced Chuck Mangione’s first album, and worked with singer Nancy Wilson on some beautiful collaborations.

In addition, he appeared frequently on television and did residencies at several universities in the attempt to educate the public on the beauty of jazz music. Not long before his death, he recorded his pet project, the music for Big Man, a folk musical based on the life of folk hero John Henry. Adderley passed away on August 8, 1975 following a stroke.

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