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Cannonball Adderley

Both as the leader of his own bands as well as an alto and soprano saxophone stylist, Julian Edwin “Cannonball” Adderley was one of the progenitors of the swinging, rhythmically robust style of music that became known as hard-bop.

Born September 15, 1928, into a musical family in Florida, Adderley was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1950. He became leader of the 36th Army Dance Band, led his own band while studying music at the U.S. Naval Academy and then led an army band while stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Originally nicknamed “Cannibal” in high school for his voracious appetite, the nickname mutated into “Cannonball” and stuck.

In 1955, Adderley traveled to New York City with his younger brother and lifelong musical partner, Nat Jr. (cornet). The elder Adderley sat in on a club date with bassist Oscar Pettiford and created such a furvor that he was signed almost immediately to a recording contract and was often (if not entirely accurately) called “the new Bird.”

Adderley's direct style on alto was indebted to the biting clarity of Charlie Parker, but it also significantly drew from the warm, rounded tones of Benny Carter; hard swingers such as Louis Jordan and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson were important influences as well. Adderly became a seminal influence on the hard-driving style known as hard-bop, and could swing ferociously at faster tempos, yet he was also an effective and soulful ballad stylist.

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