Born to Swing: Nat Adderley Jr. Returns to His Roots


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Growing up in a major jazz family, the pianist, composer, and arranger Nat Adderley Jr. was destined to be a musician. His father was the powerhouse cornetist and composer Nat Adderley, who was famed for his work with his brother, the legendary alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball" Adderley.

The 54-year-old pianist was born in Quincy, Fla., but grew up in Teaneck from age 5. He began playing the piano soon thereafter. “And I was just 11 when Cannonball and my father recorded my song 'I'm on My Way,'" he says. The tune appeared on Cannonball's 1967 classic, “Why Am I Treated So Bad!" (Capitol).

This weekend, Adderley Jr. will appear Friday at Trumpets in Montclair and Saturday at the seventh annual Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center Jazz Festival in West Orange.

Despite all that jazz juice in his genes, Adderley Jr. has spent nearly his entire career in pop and R&B, primarily as music director and arranger for the esteemed R&B singer Luther Vandross (1951-2005).

Adderley met Vandross in the mid-1970s while both were students at New York's noted LaGuardia High School of Music and Art. In 1979, then an African-American studies graduate of Yale University living in Houston, Texas -- where he performed with jazz sax aces Arnett Cobb and Eddie “Cleanhead" Vinson" -- Adderley arranged material for Vandross' first hit album, 1981's “Never Too Much" (Epic/Legacy). He subsequently worked with the singer until February 2003, when Vandross suffered the stroke that ended his career and led to his death.

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