Cannonball Adderley took the technical dexterity of Charlie Parker and mixed it with a sense of cool blues and funk.
In the wake of the death of Charlie Parker, and the stream of identical alto players who he inspired, Cannonball Adderley stood apart with his fierce technique and funky blues roots.
Early life and career
Cannonball Adderley’s start as a professional musician came when he was persuaded to sit in with Oscar Pettiford’s group while on a visit to New York. For a large part of his career, he was in quintets featuring his cornet playing brother Nat. While the first line up was less successful, the incarnations after Cannonball’s stint with Miles Davis had a lot more impact.
Julian “Cannonball” Adderley was born 15th September 1928 in Tampa Florida. His nickname is derived from a love of food – Cannonball being a corruption of Cannibal. He performed with dozens of fantastic and legendary acts, including on some of the most influential and iconic albums of all time. It is testament to his style that he was chosen by Miles Davis to play on Kind of Blue, as well as releasing Somethin’ Else under his own name with a very
similar line up. Adderley performed and recorded with a great many other musical legends including Charles Lloyd, Yusef Lateef and a host of other saxophonists as well as pianists from Bobby Timmons to George Duke to Joe Zawinul.
Instruments and Influences
While Cannonball Adderley is predominantly known as an alto player, he took influence from Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane in the late 1960s and took up the soprano. With this instrument he made his own forays into the world of fusion and avant-garde, with Accent on Africa in 1968 and The Price You Got to Pay to be Free in 1970.
Adderley makes use of bluesy soulful styling mixed with bebop ideas, in a way which gives his playing more variety and range than many of his post-bop peers.
Throughout the 1960s, the horn he largely used was a King Super 20, and later moving onto a Selmer Mark VI in the 70s. The whole time he played through various rubber Meyer mouthpieces.
Outside of music, Cannonball appeared in a few films and television shows including Play Misty for Me with Clint Eastwood, and television show Kung Fu.
Adderley died of a cerebral haemorrhage in 1975.
About the author:
Nick Webb is a saxophonist and writer based in Brighton UK.