Saturday, September 23, 2017

Remembering Sheldon Meyer – Jazz Editor

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

For all the reasons explained below, Sheldon Meyer was one of the most important persons in the Jazz World of the second half of the 20th Century. 

Indeed, had he not interceded on its behalf in his capacity as editor for Oxford University Press, much of the written history of Jazz might not be available as either a primary or a secondary source.

His contributions to Jazz documentation are inestimable, yet, very few Jazz fans know his name.

The posting of this feature is intended to help correct that deficiency. 


“Sheldon Meyer, a distinguished editor of nonfiction books who was almost single-handedly responsible for the Americanization of Oxford University Press in his more than 40 years there, died on Oct. 9 [2006] at his home in Manhattan. He was 80….

Mr. Meyer … made Oxford a major publisher of books about American popular culture — notably jazz and musical theater — and in so doing helped democratize scholarly publishing in the United States….

In Mr. Meyer’s early years with Oxford, he sometimes had trouble persuading dusty dons across the Atlantic that baseball and Basie were fit subjects for a European publishing concern founded in 1478.

‘Now they’re tremendously supportive,” Mr. Meyer told The New York Times in 1988. “They’re delighted because the books do well and they reflect well on American culture. The whole field now has an aura of respectability about it.’”
- Margalit Fox, The New York Times, October 18, 2006

"I had an advantage in staying at one place for forty years. I never could have done the jazz list if I was moving around to three or four publishers during that period. It is kind of an extreme irony that the greatest university press in the world, with these high standards, should become the major publisher of jazz, broadcasting, popular music, all these areas. But I was there at the right time and I had a group of people at the press who had enough flexibility and understanding to let it go forward. Now everybody is enormously proud of this whole thing. I couldn't ask for a better career."
- Sheldon Meyer as told to Gary Giddins

“I have a huge library of books on jazz and popular music. Probably half of them were published by Sheldon and Oxford. To contemplate the condition in which the documentation of jazz and American popular culture would be in had Sheldon Meyer never lived is a gloomy act indeed. …

It is in this light that the great body of Sheldon Meyer's work must be seen. And no one has ever more fully embodied the dictum that an institution is the lengthened shadow of one man than Sheldon Meyer. What the world of jazz owes him is beyond estimate, and most of its denizens don't even know his name.”
Gene Lees, Jazz author

It is tremendously limiting and very unfair of me to refer to the late, Sheldon Meyer solely as a “Jazz Editor,” but I like to think of him that way, that is when I’m not thinking of him as “Sheldon Meyer – Baseball Editor” [another of my favorite subjects].

I thought perhaps that readers of the blog might be interested in the following excerpts from Gene’s view of Mr. Meyer’s significance to Jazz publications during the second half of the 20th century [March, 1998 edition of his Jazzletter].

Few have placed a larger footprint on the written documentation of and opinions about Jazz than Mr. Meyer.  

If you stay with Gene’s essay to the end, not only will you have learned more about a great man – Mr. Sheldon Meyer – but you may also find yourself shedding a tear or two about the current and future state of Jazz research and documentation. 

© -  Gene Lees/Jazzletter; copyright protected; all rights reserved.; used with the author's permission.

A Lengthened Shadow

“Something catastrophic for jazz has happened in New York. I refer to the retirement at the age of seventy of Sheldon Meyer.

Sheldon Meyer, until recently senior vice president of Oxford University Press, is one of the most important men in jazz history, and if in fifty years various persons are researching this music in this time, they will be deeply in debt to him; and probably they will never have heard of him. He is a tall, indeed imposing, man with a round face, remarkably smooth and youthful skin, and equally youthful manner and bearing. He has a droll sense of humor, a quick laugh, and a remarkable lack of pretension for one whose career has been so creative and important.

Gary Giddins recently wrote in the New York Times Book Review: "'Midlist' is an industry euphemism for those writers who do not scale best-seller charts.

"Until the recent spate of articles about the woes of publishing, it never would have occurred to me that I was a midlist author. I write books about jazz, and from where I sit, midlist sounds like a promotion. Yet, along with several colleagues, I have never felt professionally marginalized in the publishing world, and for that we have one man to thank. On the occasion of his retiring from Oxford University Press, Sheldon Meyer merits, at the very least, a flourish of saxophones, a melody by Jerome Kern and a high-kicking chorus line salute. Over the past forty years, Meyer turned the world's oldest and most staid publishing house into the leading chronicler of jazz, Broadway musicals, popular-song writers, broadcasting, and black cultural history. And he and his masters made money at it."

A small number of editors have achieved great prominence, among them Harold Ross of the New Yorker and Maxwell Perkins, who brought to the world Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, and others of that stature in the time when fiction still held sway as the major literary act. I think Sheldon's name, in the non-fiction area, belongs at that level.

Sheldon spent the first few years of his career at Funk and Wagnall's, joining Oxford in 1956. Funk and Wagnall's had published Marshall Stearns' pioneering The Story of Jazz. Through Stearns, Sheldon met Martin Williams, who was to become a friend and adviser, as well as writing a number of books published by Oxford. At Oxford Sheldon published Gunther Schuller's Early Jazz, which, as Gary Giddins points out, "remains the most important musicological statement on jazz's infancy."

I came to know Sheldon through James Lincoln Collier, whom I also did not know at the time. Writers about jazz are often notable for an ill-concealed jealousy and a sullen conviction that they alone know anything about the subject, that it is or should be their exclusive domain. Collier proved to be an outstanding exception. He had read some of the Jazzletters and told Sheldon about me, saying, "You should be publishing this guy." Then he wrote me a letter saying he thought Sheldon Meyer at Oxford University Press would be receptive to a collection of my essays. It was an act of generosity that would change my life.

I wrote to Sheldon Meyer, who had published several collections of the exquisite word portraits of Whitney Balliett. Quite timidly, I began by saying, "I am well aware that collections of essays don't sell." And I got back a letter saying, somewhat testily, "Mine do." He said he would very much like to consider a collection of my pieces. After reading a number of them, he told me on the telephone, "You have a reputation as a songwriter and as an expert on singing. I think our first collection — " and I nearly choked on that word first " — should be about songwriting and singers." It became Singers and the Song (a title he gave it) and it would win the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award. So would another collection of my work that Sheldon would publish, Waiting for Dizzy. (I've won it three times. Gary Giddins has the record: he's won it five times.)

In addition, Sheldon published my Meet Me at Jim and Andy’sCats of Any Color, and Leader of the Band: The Life of Woody Herman, and Singers and the Song II, due out in June — an expanded and altered version of the first book. He published Jim Collier's biographies of Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Duke Ellington. He published Ted Gioia's West Coast Jazz and, more recently, The History of Jazz, and two books by bassist Bill CrowJazz Anecdotes and From Birdland to Broadway, after reading some of Bill's delightful pieces is the Jazzletter.

Sheldon published Reid Badger's A Life in Ragtime: A Biography of James Reese Europe', King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era by Edward A. Berlin; Philip Furia's The Poets of Tin Pan Alley (the best book on lyrics and lyricists I've ever read) and Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist; Joseph P. Swain's The Broadway Musical; Mark Tucker's The Duke Ellington ReaderThe Jazz Scene by W. Royal Stokes; Arnold Shaw's The Jazz Age; Gene Santoro's Dancing in Your Head and Stir It UpThe Frank Sinatra Reader by Steven Petkov and Leonard Mustazz; Bebop by Thomas Owens; The Jazz Revolution by Kathy I. Ogren; Too Marvelous for Words: The Life and Genius of Art Tatum, by James Lester; Ira Gitler's Swing to Bop; Leslie Course's Contemporary Women Instrumentalists, and many more, including a new encyclo­pedia of jazz, on which Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler were working when Leonard died. Ira is completing it.

And Sheldon commissioned and published American Popular Song by Alec Wilder and James Maher, one of the most important books in American musical history.

I have a huge library of books on jazz and popular music. Probably half of them were published by Sheldon and Oxford. To contemplate the condition in which the documentation of jazz and American popular culture would be in had Sheldon Meyer never lived is a gloomy act indeed. Most of those books would not have found an outlet without him.

And aside from the jazz books, Sheldon published Lawrence W. Levine's Black Culture and Black Consciousness, Albert J. Raboteau's Slave Religion, John Blassingame's Slave Community, Robert C. Toll's Blacking Up, Nathan Irvin Huggins' Harlem Renaissance, A. Leon Higginbotham' Jr.'s In the Matter of Color, Thomas Cripps' Slow Fade to Black, Richard C. Wade's Slavery in the Cities, and a two-volume biography of Booker T. Washing­ton by Louis R. Harlan's.

It is highly unlikely that the standard "commercial" publishing houses would have risked publishing such works, certainly the jazz books.

I once asked who actually headed Oxford, and was told that it was a group of anonymous dons at the university in England. I thought this was a joke; I learned that while the statement may have been hyperbolic, it was not exactly untrue. There is a certain amorphous quality about the upper level of Oxford University Press, but Sheldon Meyer lent to his division dignity, direction, and decision. When he started publishing books on jazz, his "masters," as Gary Giddins called them, questioned him. As Sheldon told Gary:

"I had some problems in the mid-60s. The head of the press in England said he had begun to notice some odd books appearing in the Oxford list, and I said, well, I'm responsible for them. Since he was a papyrologist — a guy working with old documents, old rolls of paper — he didn't have much connection with this world, to say the least. So I said to him, 'Well, look, as long as these books are authoritative and make money, it seems to me they're appropriate for the press to publish.' Fortunately for the future of my career, that turned out to be correct."

Read between the lines of that and you'll realize that Sheldon laid his career on the line to publish books about jazz. Thus it came to be that probably the oldest publishing house in England became the premiere publishing house on contemporary American culture.

As he told Gary Giddins, "I had an advantage in staying at one place for forty years. I never could have done the jazz list if I was moving around to three or four publishers during that period. It is kind of an extreme irony that the greatest university press in the world, with these high standards, should become the major publisher of jazz, broadcasting, popular music, all these areas. But I was there at the right time and I had a group of people at the press who had enough flexibility and understanding to let it go forward. Now everybody is enormously proud of this whole thing. I couldn't ask for a better career."

Sheldon Meyer has been an editor of brilliance, and if there is such a thing in editing, even of genius. I began to get a bad feeling a couple of years ago when his close friend and long-time professional associate, Leona Capeless, one of the finest copy editors I've ever known, retired from Oxford. And now that Sheldon too has retired, my unhappy capacity to reach conclusions I don't like tells me that much chronicling of American cultural history is never going to get done. The loss to America and to the world is inestimable.

In the past few years, I have been only too aware that primary sources of jazz history, and popular-music history, are being lost to us. The great masters, the men who were there, are slowly leaving us. I do not know who said, "Whenever anyone dies, a library burns." But it is true: almost anyone's experience is worth recording, even that of the most "ordinary" person. For the great unknown terrain of human history is not what the kings and famous men did — for much, though by no means all, of this was recorded, no matter how imperfectly — but how the "common" people lived.

When Leonard Feather first came to the United States from England in the late 1930s, he was able to know most of his musical heroes, including Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. By the end of the 1940s, Leonard knew everybody of significance in jazz from the founding figures to the young iconoclasts. And when I became actively involved in the jazz world in 1959, as editor of Down Beat, most of them were still there. I met most of them, and became friends with many, especially the young Turks more or less of my own age. I have lived to see them grow old (and sometimes not grow old), and die, their voices stilled forever. And so, in recent years, I have felt impelled to do what I can to get their memories down before they are lost, leading me to write what I think of as mini-biographies of these people. This has been the central task of the Jazzletter. And always underlying my efforts in the past ten years has been the quiet confidence that, thanks to Sheldon, these works would end up between hard covers on library shelves for the use of future music historians. That is no longer so.

When I wanted to know something about one aspect or another of music history in the 1960s, I could pick up the telephone and call these older mentors, such as Alec Wilder or my special friend Johnny Mercer, or Robert Offergeld, music editor of Stereo Review when I wrote for it and one of the greatest scholars I have ever known. If I wanted to know something about the history or the technique of film composition, I could telephone my dear, dear friend Hugo Friedhofer, who wrote his first film music in 1929. There was nothing worth knowing about film music that Hugo didn't know; and not much for that matter about the history of all music. I can't call Hugo any more. Or Dizzy. I can't call Glenn Gould either. Gerry Mulligan was ten months older than I. Shorty Rogers died while I was researching the Woody Herman biogra­phy; I was to interview him in a week or two.

Now, when my generation is gone, there will be no one much left who knew Duke Ellington and Woody Herman and Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins. All future writers will be dependent not on primary sources, which all of these people were for me, but on secondary sources, which is to say documents. And earlier writings. And I have found much of the earlier writing on jazz, such as that of John Hammond and Ralph J. Gleason, to be unreliable — sloppy in research, gullible in comprehension, and too often driven by personal and even political agendas. Errors — and lies — reproduce themselves in future writings.

It is in this light that the great body of Sheldon Meyer's work must be seen. And no one has ever more fully embodied the dictum that an institution is the lengthened shadow of one man than Sheldon Meyer. What the world of jazz owes him is beyond estimate, and most of its denizens don't even know his name.

Sheldon continues as a consultant to Oxford, completing projects he initiated. But no writer who has dealt with him thinks Oxford will continue developing these hugely significant projects. And therefore much of jazz and popular-music history is going to go unrecorded, lost forever. We are fortunate, however, that Sheldon Meyer managed to get as much of it preserved as he did.

Salud, Sheldon. We all owe you.”

Salud, Gene, We all owe you, too.

[Mr. Lees passed away on April 22, 2010]



Friday, September 22, 2017

Julian and Nat: The Adderley Brothers

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


“A great popularizer, and a leader in the soul-jazz style of the '6os, Cannon was a much-loved figure who helped keep jazz before an audience at a time when it was losing listeners. ...

Long a critically undervalued figure, Cannonball Adderley's status as a master communicator in jazz has increased since his sadly early death. The blues-soaked tone and hard, swinging delivery of his alto lines are as recognizable a sound as anything in the aftermath of bebop and, while many have been quick to criticize his essentially derivative manner - Cannonball frequently fell back on cliches, because he just liked the sound of them - there's a lean, hard-won quality about his best playing that says a lot about one man's dedication to his craft….

Adderley's regular quintet has often been damned with such faint praise as 'unpretentious' and 'soulful'. This was a hard-hitting, rocking band which invested blues and blowing formulae with an intensity that helped to keep one part of jazz's communication channels open at the time of Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy and other seekers after new forms….”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.

Julian “Cannonball” Adderley made his New York debut at the Cafe Bohemia in June, 1955, a moment which has gone down in jazz legend. It is a much told tale, but one that bears repeating. Julian and his brother, trumpeter Nat Adderley, had journeyed from their home in Florida to New York to spend some time in the city soaking up the jazz scene. At the time, the trumpeter had worked briefly with Lionel Hampton, but the saxophonist was a total stranger on the New York stage.

The Adderley Brothers made their way directly to Cafe Bohemia, where bassist Oscar Pettiford held the residency. His current saxophonist, Jerome Richardson, was absent, and the band began without him. As Nat Adderley explained to Jazz author Kenny Mathieson in 1997, what happened next has taken up permanent residence in Jazz lore.

“Julian and myself had our horns with us, not because we expected to play, but we didn't want to leave them in the car - this was New York, right? So what happened then was that Charlie Rouse came into the club, and when Oscar saw him come in, he called him over to sit in for Jerome. Charlie didn't have his horn, but Oscar had seen that we had our cases, so he sent Charlie over to borrow the horn. That was Oscar for you, I guess. But the thing was, Charlie knew Julian - he had met him in Florida, and knew that he could play. So Charlie said to Oscar that Julian didn't want anybody else to be blowing his horn, but he would sit in instead. Now, Oscar wasn't real happy about that, but he let him come up, then he called I'll Remember April at a real fast tempo. I'm talking murderous, man. And Julian just flew across the top, and left everybody with their mouths hanging open.”

When the saxophonist produced an equally dazzling performance on Pettiford's Bohemia After Dark, the bassist offered him a gig, and the word went around the New York musicians that a hot new property was in town.

Kenny Clarke, the drummer in Pettiford's band, had a record date for Savoy scheduled at the end of June, and invited both Adderley brothers to take part. It featured a variation on Pettiford's band, minus the leader, with Donald Byrd (trumpet), Jerome Richardson (tenor sax and flute), and a rhythm section of Horace Silver (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Clarke.

Savoy grabbed the chance to record a second session in July, this time under the saxophonist's own name, before he signed to EmArcy Records. It featured a quintet in which the brothers were joined by Hank Jones (piano), Chambers and Clarke.

The Savoy material was later collected as Spontaneous Combustion: The Savoy Sessions, and included two sides cut by a quartet led by Clarke on a separate date, featuring Nat but not Julian. As recording debuts go, it is not earth-shattering, but does reveal that the saxophonist was already well down the road to mastery. He sounds like a seasoned player from the outset, and on cuts like 'With Apologies To Oscar', 'Bohemia After Dark' or a lithe reading of 'Willow Weep For Me', he reveals his command of line, phrasing and rhythmic momentum, whatever the tempo.

And then there are the blues performances, Hear Me Talkin' To Ya from the first date, and Spontaneous Combustion and the slower Still Talkin' To Ya from the second. They lay down a bedrock of blues invention and expression which the saxophonist would exploit to the full in the next two decades.

As Peter Keepnews noted in his sleeve notes for the album release, 'the special value of Adderley's music was never that there was anything startlingly "new" about it, but rather that his was a style simultaneously "modern" in conception and solidly rooted in the traditions of jazz'. Those traditions included not only Charlie Parker, to whom Adderley was continuously and tiresomely compared, but also to earlier swing era stylists like Coleman Hawkins (his first hero) and especially Benny Carter.

After an initial stutter in the late-1950s, Cannonball Adderley's subsequent career brought him a great deal of success, and a great deal of rather deprecating criticism from those who saw him as selling out his jazz heritage in pursuit of it. He arguably did more than any other single musician to popularise the idea of soul jazz, and his 45 rpm single hits of the early 1960s (usually edited-down versions of album tracks, but sometimes made specifically for that purpose) conjured up an image of a much earlier phase of jazz history, but it would be entirely wrong to dismiss him as simply a populist with a shrewd feel for public taste (which is no hanging offence in any case).

Adderley followed his own musical instincts in everything he did, and they did not always coincide with the critical agendas of the day.

As Chris Sheridan points out in Dis Here: A Bio-Discography of Julian “Cannonball' Adderley, that kind of reaction is “the cross borne by many of those who consolidate rather than innovate.... Unfortunately, there is no more potent kiss of death in the eyes of so-called "purists" than a taste of popular and therefore financial success, but this cannot alter the fact that Mr Adderley's music was full of exhilaratingly naive freshness and always swung hard. As Nat has observed, he appreciated their "hits" for the security they afforded and for the people they pleased, but he always wanted the chance to “play whatever he pleased.”

The Adderley brothers had grown up in Florida, where Julian acquired his familiar nickname, said to be a corruption of “Cannibal,” inspired by his formidable appetite.


Julian Edwin Adderley was born on 15 September, 1928, and Nathaniel three years later, on 25 November, 1931 (that is the commonly accepted date, although Chris Sheridan gives it as 21 November, apparently on Nat's authority).

Their father, also Julian, was a cornetist, and started both boys on the trumpet as children. Nat stuck with it, and adopted the cornet as his horn of choice from 1950, but Julian chose to switch to saxophone, seemingly inspired by hearing Coleman Hawkins with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. Their musical careers would remain intertwined until Julian's death from a stroke while on tour on 8 August, 1975 (the saxophonist suffered from diabetes, as did Nat).

They formed their first band as youngsters (they were eleven and eight at the time), and continued to develop through school and college. After graduating, Julian took a job teaching and ran a band on the side, including a stint leading a band in the army, where his fellow musicians included Nat, trombonist Curtis Fuller and pianist Junior Mance.

Nat was the first to spread his musical wings beyond their home. In 1954, having also taken a teaching qualification, he joined Lionel Hampton's band for a time. Any further thought of teaching careers was put aside after the Bohemia debut in 1955, and both men turned their full attention to music.

Julian was signed by EmArcy Records (the label was an imprint of Mercury Records) immediately after the Savoy dates, and set about forming his first real band, with Nat on cornet.

He cut several highly manufactured sessions for his new label, including an octet date for his eponymous debut in July, 1955; a With Strings album in October of that year; a ten-piece band for In The Land of Hi-Fi in June, 1956; and an album of tunes from Duke Ellington's musical Jump For Joy, cut with trumpeter Emmett Berry, a string quartet and rhythm section in 1958, with fine arrangements by Bill Russo.

The essential musical core of his work for EmArcy, however, lay in the
sessions with his quintet, in which Nat was joined by a rhythm trio featuring Junior Mance's rolling, bluesy piano, Sam Jones on bass, and drummer Jimmy Cobb. They recorded most of the material for the albums released as Sophisticated Swing and Cannonball Enroute in February, 1957, with the sessions for Cannonball's Sharpshooters following in March, 1958. The problem was that much of this music was not released until considerably later, and the lack of support for their working quintet contributed both to its demise, and to their departure from the company. All three albums were eventually gathered on an excellent 2-CD compilation as Sophisticated Swing: The EmArcy Small-Group Sessions in 1995, along with Nat Adderley's To The Ivy League From Nat.

There was to be no immediate success story, however. A combination of inexperience and financial naivety led to the break-up of the band as a working unit in 1957. Both Julian and Nat went off to work as sidemen for a time, the trumpeter with J. J. Johnson and Woody Herman, and the saxophonist in what was to be a crucial stay with Miles Davis, in a period which encompassed the recording of Milestones and Kind of Blue, as well as Adderley's equally memorable contributions to Gil Evans' New Bottle, Old Wine for Pacific Jazz in 1958, and the joint Davis-Evans classic Porgy and Bess, also in 1958. Adderley also had the chance to join Dizzy Gillespie at that point, but told Ira Gitler in 1959 (quoted in Ashley Khan's Kind of Blue) that his decision to plump for Miles had two motivating factors: “I had two things in mind. I had the commercial thing in view, like I wanted to get the benefit of Miles's exposure ... I figured I could learn more than with Dizzy. Not that Dizzy isn't a good teacher, but he played more commercially than Miles. Thank goodness I made the move I did.”

The trumpeter initially hired Adderley for his quintet, because, according to the saxophonist, “he didn't dig any of the tenor players around and Trane had left.” Coltrane then returned to the band, making up the famous sextet on Kind of Blue. In his autobiography, Miles explained that he saw the possibility of developing a “new kind of feeling” by exploiting the contrast between “Cannonball's blues-rooted alto sax up against Trane's harmonic, chordal way of playing, his more free-form approach,” a wish which was handsomely fulfilled. Adderley's albums with Miles and Evans undoubtedly constitute some of the highest peaks in his recording career, and must be considered central to any assessment of his musical standing.

Cannonball also recorded several other significant albums during his tenure in the trumpeter's band. Somethin' Else, a one-off session for Blue Note on 9 March, 1958, featured Davis in his last appearance as a sideman. The saxophonist began recording for Riverside in July, 1958, opening his account with Portrait of Cannonball with a sextet featuring another Florida hornman, trumpeter Blue Mitchell, and pianist Bill Evans. Alabama Concerto, recorded in late July and early August, 1958, was a folk-derived project originally credited to composer John Benson Brooks, but later reissued as an Adderley disc.

A more compelling date in October, 1958, teamed the altoist in a vibrant collaboration with vibraphonist Milt Jackson on Things Are Getting Better, a relaxed, swinging showcase for two players imbued from top to toe in the blues. A quintet date from 3 February, 1959, originally issued as Cannonball Adderley Quintet In Chicago and subsequently reissued as Cannonball and Coltrane, featured Miles's band minus its leader (a similar personnel completed a Paul Chambers session for Veejay on the same day).
Just before leaving the trumpeter's employ, he cut another Riverside date in April-May, 1959, released as Cannonball Takes Charge. Several of these sessions would certainly fall into any list of his most important discs.

The experience gained in the two years of that association with Miles had helped the saxophonist mature into an even more fully rounded player, and he re-emerged ready for the challenge of leading his own band again in 1959, albeit in a very different musical direction to the modal explorations which characterised Kind of Blue.


His recordings had already established his credentials as an alto saxophonist with an equally secure grip on driving bop tunes, blues and ballads, an irresistible sense of swing, and an alto sound which had something of Charlie Parker's diamond-hard luminescence, mixed in beautifully proportioned fashion with the rich, buttery elegance of Benny Carter, the occasional whiff of an earthy, jump band saltiness, and a touch of sanctified gospel feel. Those were the classic constituents of hard bop, and Adderley was about to establish himself as the most popular exponent of the genre.

The sound which would give him his most overt commercial success had already been prefigured on funky tunes like Nat's compositions Another Kind of Soul on Sophisticated Swing and That Funky Train on Cannonball Enroute, Sam Jones's Blue Funk from Portrait of Cannonball, or Julian's own Wabash from In Chicago.

It was their version of Bobby Timmons' This Here (aka 'Dis Here') which really caught on big, however, and helped move the band onto another plane, in commercial terms at least. The tune was taken from their Riverside album Cannonball Adderley Quintet in San Francisco, record at the Jazz Workshop in October, 1959, with a band which featured Nat on cornet, Timmons on piano, Sam Jones on bass, and Louis Hayes on drums. Orrin Keepnews had promised Adderley that he would record the band whenever the saxophonist felt ready, and remained true to his word when he received an excited call to report how well things were going in the four week stint at the Workshop.

The live recording was born of necessity (the availability of an appropriate studio in San Francisco) rather than careful planning, and proved to be one of those serendipitous masterstrokes which can arise in apparently unpromising circumstances. It opened in unconventional fashion with a lengthy spoken introduction from the saxophonist, which, among other things, established the verbal authority for the Dis Here version of the title in the course of his oration on soul. His verbal rapport with his audience was a feature of his style, and an indication of his ability to communicate easily and directly with them. An affable personality may have helped grease the wheels (and infuriate the purists), but it was the music in all its funky, soulful, swinging joy which established the LP as an even bigger seller than the single, and propelled the saxophonist onto another level of stardom.

Our culture predisposes us to link artistry with suffering, a stereotype which
Adderley gleefully pushed aside. Chris Sheridan puts it thus: “Unlike some jazz musicians, his style was a mirror image of his personality: large, eloquent, outgoing and above all predisposed to the sunnier side of life, despite a rare eloquence in interpretation of jazz's most basic material, the blues. It was a sense of optimism in much of his playing that echoed that of trumpeter Clifford Brown. Neglecting his gifts with the blues, many commentators thus wrote him off as of narrow emotional range.”

His effusive music had a verbose, easy going lyricism which permeates the San Francisco date, and retains its charm largely intact. In addition to Dis Here, the album included a great take of Spontaneous Combustion and a version of Bohemia After Dark, Adderley's own You Got It, and Randy Weston's Hi-Fly, while later issues added Monk's Straight, No Chaser. It is solid, swinging and unpretentious stuff, but with much powerful, inventive and expressive jazz improvisation along the way.

It was the harbinger of much to come in a similar vein. Timmons had not been his first choice as pianist when he was putting the new quintet together - he had offered the job to Phineas Newborn, but the pianist would only agree to join the band if he received featured billing, and Nat already had that (the band was always billed as “The Cannonball Adderley Quintet featuring Nat Adderley”). Timmons proved a fortunate alternative, and although he did not stay long in the group, he not only provided them with that initial hit, but also its follow-up, Dat Dere, drawn from a session on 1 February,1960, shortly after Nat Adderley had cut his own best known tune, Work Song (aka 'The Work Song'). It is one of the most archetypal of all hard bop compositions, and appeared on his own album of that name, along with another hard bop classic, Julian's Sack o' Woe.

In a precise parallel with his brother, the cornetist had also signed to Riverside after cutting albums with Savoy and EmArcy, and chose an unusual line-up for what became his classic album. His cornet was featured alongside guitarist Wes Montgomery, who had been recommended to Orrin Keepnews by Cannonball the previous year and was cutting The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery back-to-back with this session, and either Sam Jones or Keter Belts on cello. Not all the manipulations of personnel were quite as planned - as Orrin Keepnews revealed in his reminiscence on Nat in The View From Within, the two cuts with no piano resulted from Bobby Timmons dropping out “on account of a little drinking.”

Work Song was recorded in January, 1960, and contains some of Nat Adderley's finest playing on record outside of his brother's bands. It was one of several albums he cut for the label, including Branching Out in 1958, with saxophonist Johnny Griffin and the trio known as The Three Sounds (comprising pianist Gene Harris, bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer Bill Dowdy), and That's Right, a 1960 date with a five-strong saxophone section, as well as the subtly arranged Much Brass with trombonist Slide Hampton from 1959. He was never a great virtuoso, but evolved a distinctive signature on cornet, blending a rich tone and earthy warmth with the horn's inherent touch of astringency to great effect, and developed an individual and expressive voice of his own, which included a sparing but effective use of the very low registers of the horn, as well as lip-busting explorations at the opposite end of its range.

The early 1960s were a busy and productive time for the Adderley brothers.  Despite receiving lucrative offers elsewhere, Adderley remained with Riverside until the label's demise in 1964, and neither he nor Keepnews was about to ignore a winning gambit. His remaining albums for the label included several more live sets, including The Cannonball Adderley Quintet at The Lighthouse in 1960, with English pianist Victor Feldman now installed at the piano, doubling on vibes. The saxophonist then expanded his group to a sextet in 1961, adding saxophonist Yusef Lateef to the personnel, while the Austrian pianist Joe Zawinul took over the stool he would occupy for a decade, before moving on to Weather Report via Miles Davis.

The choice of a second white European pianist brought Adderley some flack from those who felt his band should give preference to black cats, but, like Miles, he was colour blind when it came to music, although he was active in support of civil rights issues. The sextet are featured on Cannonball Adderley Sextet In New York, cut at the Village Vanguard in January, 1962; Jazz Workshop Revisited, a return to the scene of earlier triumphs in September, 1962, which introduced another of Nat's best known compositions, The Jive Samba; Cannonball In Europe, recorded in August, 1962, but not released at the time (other live material from European tours of that period has also surfaced on the Pablo, OJC and TCB labels); and Nippon Soul, cut in Tokyo in July, 1963 (again, other concert recordings have also emerged on various labels from that tour).


His studio albums for Riverside included Them Dirty Blues, the album cut on 1 February, 1960, which featured Dat Dere; The Poll Winners, the only recorded meeting of Adderley and Wes Montgomery in May-June, 1960; Know What I Mean?, a rare quartet date from 1961 named for one of the saxophonist's favourite catch phrases, with Bill Evans on piano, and the MJQ-derived team of Percy Heath and Connie Kay; The Cannonball Adderley Quintet Plus, a fine session from May, 1961, with pianist Wynton Kelly augmenting the quintet, allowing Feldman to play more vibes than usual; African Waltz, a 1961 album with a big band accompaniment; and the self-explanatory Cannonball's Bossa Nova, a cash-in on a current fad from December, 1962, which had the merit of using a Brazilian group that included pianist Sergio Mendes and drummer Dom Um Romao.

The stability of personnel undoubtedly contributed to making the Adderley Sextet one of the great ensembles in all modern jazz. Lateef, whose instruments included flute and oboe as well as tenor saxophone, was, like drummer Louis Hayes, a native of Detroit (bassist Sam Jones, on the other hand, belonged to the Florida contingent). He had cut his teeth with the likes of Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie in the late 1940s, but was also given to a more experimental impulse which was reflected in his work with Mingus prior to joining the sextet, and in his own subsequent albums for Impulse! and Atlantic in the 1960s and 1970s. His earlier discs, including sessions for Riverside and Prestige, had been relatively more straight-ahead affairs (although often with a distinct Eastern flavour in the music, as in The Centaur and The Phoenix from 1960, or Eastern Sounds the following year), and he was on the cusp of a more outward bound approach in his two years with the sextet, from late 1961 to 1964.

His introduction not only added depth to the ensemble and a new, distinctive and occasionally disruptive voice and tonal colour to the band's front line, but sparked the two resident hornmen to even greater efforts. Lateef also brought a striking variation into the band's repertoire, introducing compositions which stretched their music in unaccustomed directions. That was evident right from the outset on In New York, cut only three weeks after he joined the band (although he already sounds pretty much at home). Challenging compositions like Planet Earth and Syn-anthesia on that album, or Brother John, his tribute to John Coltrane featured on Nippon Soul, nestle a little uncomfortably amid the more amiable blowing vehicles, but bring a newly charged dimension to the music which was heightened by his more 'out' approach on all of his instruments.

The tension which his contributions brought to the music generally worked well as a contrast with the band's more settled directions, and often produced dramatic responses from his colleagues, while Zawinul fitted sweetly into a unit which boasted one of the best rhythm sections around in Jones and Hayes, who laid down a relentlessly swinging and superbly focused rhythmic foundation under everything the band did. The pianist contributed a great deal of material to the band's book in his long tenure with them, on both the more populist and the more advanced facets of their music. Zawinul recalled the feel of the band for Brian Glasser's book In A Silent Way.

“We did nothing but work, man, 46-47 weeks a year, and often under the best circumstances. A lot of the time we really had fantastic fun. In Europe, I hadn't had a chance to play bebop, and Cannonball was the first gig where I could really stretch out, a solo on every tune. I feel Sam Jones and Louis Hayes were really instrumental in my really getting down with this. Sam Jones is one of the greatest walkers of all time, and Louis has one of the gifted right hands - his cymbal beat is dangerous. And though I was still green for a while, Cannonball would let me play trio tunes with Sam and Louis. In Philadelphia, in a club where it's 90 per cent black, I'm playing my shit and we have those people on their chairs. I used to check out how people accepted me, and it showed me I was right to do this.”

The demise of Riverside took Adderley to Capitol, where he continued to rack up commercial successes, opening his account with (surprise) a live album, Cannonball Adderley - Live!, recorded in August, 1964, with a young Charles Lloyd replacing Lateef on tenor. His tenure with Capitol produced around twenty albums, many of which were forgettable by comparison with his earlier work. The creeping sense of relying on formulaic solutions which was evident even in the Riverside years became more and more marked as the decade progressed. Nonetheless, there was also much strong stuff emerging. He scored further successes with tunes like Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, which provided his biggest hit of all in 1966, and Country Preacher in 1969, both prime slices of greasy, sanctified funk written by Zawinul.

He experimented with a flavour of African drumming on Accent On Africa in 1968, and with electronics on The Price You Got To Pay To Be Free in 1970 (among others), played soprano now and then, and chipped in the occasional vocal, as did Nat. He renewed his association with Orrin Keepnews when he signed to the Fantasy label in 1973, and cut solid albums like Inside Straight (1973) and Phenix (1975), a double LP which looked back to many of his classic tunes with various members of his past bands, and carried the odd intimation of a more radical direction which was always part of his work, notably in his solo on a remake of 74 Miles Away, a modal tune by Zawinul which the pianist described as “a very natural groove based on just one chord” -  A flat minor. It was originally recorded in 1967 on an album of that name, and stands alongside tunes like Hippodelphia or Rumplestiltskin as one of Zawinul's more exploratory pieces for the band.

Bass player Walter Booker confirmed the tension which simmered between the pianist and the more conservative Nat Adderley over the direction of their music, and eventually led to Zawinul's moving on at the end of 1970. He told Brian Glasser that Zawinul was responsible for the direction in which the music was going in the late 1960s, but “Joe always wanted to go further and do more, and Nat was holding it back,” while the leader took a middle position and reaped the musical benefits:

“Cannon moved on in a number of ways, but Nat was a straight-down-the-middle sort of guy - that was the way his tastes ran. He and Cannon never had any overt problems with it, because they did a tremendous job of adjusting to each other, which is not always automatic between brothers. So to say there was a certain amount of pull between Joe and Nat is quite accurate. ... Cannonball's personality was a very relaxed one. He was not gonna get uptight about musical differences. He'd find a way to work things out ... and if the way to work it out was to step back and let these guys bounce off each other, what the hell!”

Cannonball was at work on an album at the time of his unexpected and sadly premature death at the age of forty-six. The saxophonist's career had traced a parabola described succinctly by Chris Sheridan:

“He began more loved by musicians than by critics, and ended more loved by the public than by the critics. In between was an intense period when, first with Miles Davis, then with his own re-formed quintet, Cannonball was lauded by all camps.”

If the saxophonist was always ready to toss in one of his stock licks, it was not because he could think of nothing else to play -he did so because he enjoyed playing them, and liked the way they sounded, which just about sums up his philosophy when it came to making music.

Orrin Keepnews described him as:

“ … one of the most completely alive human beings I had ever encountered;  a big man and a joyous man, intensely loyal to his associates, but also the kind of star who volunteered his services as a sideman (at union scale) for the record dates of men he liked and respected like Jimmy Heath, Kenny Dorham, Philly Joe Jones. He came up with the idea of his producing albums that would present either unknown newcomers or underappreciated veterans; he felt that his name might help their careers (Chuck Mangione first recorded as a Cannonball Adderley 'presentation').”

Whatever the tensions and frustrations, Joe Zawinul was in no doubt about the leader's merits, and as a leading musician who worked closely with the saxophonist for a decade, was well placed to reflect on them when asked to compile a CD anthology in the late 1990s: “Cannonball is one of the greatest musicians of all time. I played with him nine and a half years, and not one time did I hear him searching for something on the horn. Not that he wasn't improvising, but his reaction time was so quick. You never felt he was looking for it. He hardly ever practised. There was no reason for him to practise. And Cannon's tone! I played with the guy, but I'm not a music listener who sits around and plays old albums, so when I listened to his recordings it was his tone that struck me first. It was just awesome. His sound in the lower register is so beautiful, and the sound didn't get skinny going up. Some players sound nice in the bottom then go up, and they don't have it. Cannonball had the most beautiful control of his entire instrument.”

With the notable exception of Julian's work with Miles, however, the Adderleys rarely sounded better than when they were blowing together on some sweet, strong, funky hard bop, or putting the soul in soul jazz.

This piece draws heavily from the following bibliography: Chris Sheridan Dis Here: A Bio-Discography of Julian Cannonball Adderley , Cary Ginell, Walk Tall: The Music and Life of Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Ashley Khan's Kind of Blue, Kenny Mathieson, Cookin’: Hard Bop and Soul Jazz, 1954-1965, Orrin Keepnews, The View from Within, Brian Glasser, In A Silent Way and numerous liner and insert notes by a wide variety of authors.