Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cannonball Adderley

One of my all-time idols of Jazz is Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, born in Tampa in 1928. His nickname "Cannonball" is actually a corruption of "cannibal", which was his nickname in high school but people often misheard it as "cannonball" and the malapropism stuck.

Adderley and his brother Nat, also a Jazz musician, moved to Tallahassee at a young age and performed with Ray Charles in the 1940s, by which time the Adderley Brothers were already local legends themselves. The Adderleys were greatly influenced by Ray, as well as Louis Jordan and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson.

But it was a day job as a schoolteacher that kept the lights turned on. After high school, he attended Florida A&M University, then taught music to high school students at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale. He moved to NYC in 1955 and quickly parlayed himself into a national career. He brought his saxophone into the Cafe Bohemia because he feared that it would be stolen, and Oscar Pettiford's band asked him to sit in since their own sax player Jerome Richardson was unavailable and his substitute was running late.

Adderley told Down Beat:

"I immediately was scared to death: to be able to play with those cats, heroes of mine. I'm a Floridian, a schoolteacher, a player of rock music, lounge music and that kind of stuff. I said, "Certainly." So I went up to the stand, and I guess O.P. wanted me to prove myself, because we kicked off with I Remember April at what I thought was a fast tempo, because I'd never played it that fast, But I played it fairly well,and they were satisfied that I could play, so they invited me to play the evening with them, even when Jerome came in. My brother Nat and I had heard all these stories about the New York Musicians' Union; how they would fine you for sitting in, so when the clubowner came over to them and said "Who's that guy playing saxophone?" rather than give him my name, Nat said, "Well, that's Cannonball," So I became known as Cannonball once again, after so many years of being just plain Mr. Adderley, schoolteacher."

He joined the Miles Davis Sextet in October 1957, played on pivotal history-altering Davis records like Milestones and Kind of Blue. For many casual listeners, this was their introduction to Adderley's music and is responsible for the attention he continued to garner for the rest of his life.

Talking about the nuts and bolts of Jazz music is as subjectively useless a pursuit to me as say, winespeak. So let's let this clip do the talking:

Adderley died in 1975 (shortly after appearing in an acting role on the TV series Kung Fu with David Carradine) and is buried in the Southside Cemetery in Tallahassee.

No comments:

Post a Comment