Tampa jazz legend Julian “Cannonball” Adderley became proficient in playing the alto saxophone during his time in the Florida town. But it was his move to New York that gave way to his connections with jazz giants Miles Davis, George Duke and Yusef Lateef.
Adderley was born September 15, 1928, earning his nickname by way of the less savory moniker “cannibal” due to his big appetite. Adderley’s father was a jazz cornetist, which was the musical path his brother and future band member, Nat, would take. In high school, Adderley formed his own band with his band instructor as his adviser. After graduation, he taught music in Ft. Lauderdale and played music on the side. In the 40’s the Adderley brothers played with Ray Charles when the blues great lived in Tallahassee.
Although Adderley was a legend in Florida, his move to Queens would prove fruitful for his career in the long run. Adderley’s blues-styled sax playing caught the ear of Davis and he played on the legendary star’s classic releases Milestones and Kind Of Blue. Throughout the late ’50’s and much of the ’60’s, Adderley formed his own quintet band alongside his brother. Success was often elusive, but he scored a crossover hit with “Mercy Mercy Mercy” in 1966.
It was around this time Adderley began to follow Davis and others by experimenting with electric jazz and the avant-garde style. Music figured prominently in Adderley’s life in the ’70’s as well but tragedy struck in 1975 when a severe migraine led to a cerebral hemorrhage. Adderley passed at age 46.
Adderley released over 40 albums as a band leader, with some collaborations. Adderley played with dozens of artists as alto sax sideman as well.