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 in 1975.
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 era.
Nat Adderley 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.
Nat AdderleyThe 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.