Nat Adderley may have spent a significant part of his career in the
shadow of his better known older brother, the alto saxophonist Julian
'Cannonball' Adderley, but he was always a major contributor to their shared
projects, and achieved a great deal in his own right after his brother's death
He was born Nathaniel Adderley, and took up trumpet as a teenager in 1946. He
began playing in local bands in Florida, and made what became a career long
switch to the smaller cornet in 1950. He did so against the prevailing tide.
Cornet had been the horn of choice for New Orleans trumpet players in the early
days of jazz, but had fallen out of fashion in favour of trumpet by the bop
Adderley evolved a distinctive signature on the instrument, blending a rich
tone and earthy warmth with the horn's inherent touch of astringency to great
effect. He played in an army band for a time during his military service from
1951-3, then joined the band led by vibraphonist Lionel Hampton in 1954, his
first association with an established jazz figure. He remained with Hampton
until 1955, and cut his earliest recordings for the Savoy and EmArcy labels
that same year.
Cannonball Adderley had made an early mark in New York when he sat in with
bassist Oscar Pettiford at the Cafe Bohemia in Greenwich Village in 1955, but
that did not translate into immediate success when the brothers joined forces
in Cannonball's Quintet the following year. He broke up the group in 1957, and
Nat worked with trombonist J. J. Johnson and bandleader Woody Herman before
reuniting with his brother in 1959.
earlier lack of success quickly evaporated. The band's funky, gospel-tinged
jazz became one of the most successful sounds on the hard bop and soul jazz
circuit, and they even scored an unexpected chart hit with 'Mercy, Mercy,
Mercy' in 1966. Cannonball had featured alongside John Coltrane in Miles
Davis's classic Sextet which made the legendary Kind of Blue album in 1959, and
that association provided the boost he needed to take off as a star in his own
right, with the cornetist very much his right hand man.
Nat had continued to record under his own leadership, and made his most famous
record for the Riverside label in January, 1960, with a band which featured
guitarist Wes Montgomery. The resulting album, Work Song , included the tune
which remains his best known composition, 'The Work Song'. Its bluesy
call-and-response chorus was an emblematic example of the hard bop style of the
period, and is still widely played.
became a mainstay of the Adderley's as well as the hard bop repertoire, but was
not the only composition by the cornetist to do so. His significant
contributions as a composer also include widely performed tunes like 'Jive
Samba', 'Hummin'', 'Sermonette', and 'The Old Country'.
His role as a soloist was no less significant, and he was equally adept at
uptempo hard bop excursions and richly delineated ballads. Miles Davis had been
an early influence on his style, but he developed a highly individual and very
expressive voice of his own, which included a sparing but effective use of the
very low registers of the horn.
Nat remained a central part of his brother's various projects until the
saxophonist's unexpected and premature death from a stroke in 1975. Their
collaboration included an ambitious but very uneven "folk musical" based on the
tale of the mythical black hero figure, John Henry, with lyrics by Diane
Lampert and Peter Farrow. It was released on record as Big Man (Fantasy) in
1975, with the late Joe Williams singing the title role, and soul diva Randy
Crawford making her recording debut as Big John's woman, Carolina.
A concert performance was given at Carnegie Hall the following year as a
tribute to the saxophonist, and a full theatrical production under the title
Shout Up A Morning was eventually staged at the Kennedy Centre for the
Performing Arts in Washington and the La Jolla Playhouse in California in 1986.
The cornetist had formed his own band shortly before his brother's death, and
he continued to lead it until 1997, when his right leg was amputated following
complications from diabetes, which would eventually lead to his death.
Bassist Walter Booker was a virtual ever-present in the band, but Adderley was
equally open to the younger generation of players, and featured the likes of
pianist Rob Bargad and alto saxophonist Vincent Herring for extended periods.
He was appointed artist in residence to the faculty of Florida Southern College
in 1996, and was inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame in Kansas City in 1997.
If he made his classic contributions to the music in the early 60s, he remained
a highly resourceful and always musical performer throughout his long career,
and left a rich recorded legacy in his many albums with his brother, under his
own leadership, and as a sideman.
His son, Nat Adderley, Jr, is also a musician. He is also survived by his wife,
Ann; his daughter, Alison; and five grandchildren.
||Introducing Nat Adderley
||That's Nat Adderley
||To the Ivy League from Nat
||Original Jazz Classics
||That's Right!: Nat Adderley & The Big Sax Section
||Work Song [Riverside]
||In the Bag
||Little Big Horn
||Live at Memory Lane
||Calling Out Loud
||Love, Sex and the Zodiac
||Soul of the Bible
||The Soul Zodiac
||Don't Look Back
||A Little New York Midtown Music
||Blue Autumn [live]
||On the Move [live]
||We Remember Cannon
||In & Out
||Autumn Leaves [live]
||Talkin' About You
||The Old Country
||Work Song [Peter Pan] [live]
||Live at the 1994 Floating Jazz Festival
||Live on Planet Earth
||Mercy, Mercy, Mercy