Concluding his studies, he took up employment at the Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as an applied instrumental music teacher.
After a couple of months, he moved to Tallahasse, Florida, where his family had relocated to. His parents took up teaching position at Florida A&M University. In the early 1940s, he along with his brother Nat played with Ray Charles.
It was in 1955 that he finally shifted to New York City. While at New York, he visited Cafe Bohemia, where Oscar Pettiford's group was playing. Incidentally, he carried his saxophone with him that day, primarily fearing it being stolen. However, he was asked to fill in as a saxophone player. The performance was so riveting that it established his reputation as a saxophonist.
He then formed his own group along with brother Nat. In 1957, he signed onto Savoy Jazz Label, before being spotted by Miles Davis who impressed by the former’s blues-rooted alto saxophone, invited him to play for the group.
He formally joined the Miles Davis Sextet in October 1957. These were the foundation years of his glorious career ahead. He played on the seminal Davis records ‘Milestones’ and ‘Kind of Blue’.
Three months following his admittance into the Miley Davis group, John Coltrane returned to the group. It was marked by the entry of pianist Bill Evan as well. Together, they recorded the records, ‘Portrait of Cannonball’ and ‘Know What I Mean?’
Meanwhile, he did not let go of his passion for teaching music and carried over this passion into his recordings. In 1961, he narrated The Child’s Introduction to Jazz on Riverside Records.
He united with his brother Nat and came up with his first quintet, the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, in which he was on alto sax while his brother was on cornet. Though the first quintet was not quite successful, it was the second quintet that garnered much positive response. It included notable pianist, bassists, drummer and saxophonists.
Later in his career, electric jazz and avant garde experimentation influenced much of his music. He was inspired by Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’ album as well.
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Influenced by the music of Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, he came up with two musical albums during this period, ‘Accent on Africa’ and ‘The Price You Got to Pay to be Free’ in which he doubled on his soprano saxophone.
In 1970, his quintet was showcased at the Monterey Jazz Festival in California. Simultaneously, it was also featured in the psychological thriller, ‘Play Misty for Me’
Other than singing, he ventured into other forms of entertainment as well, and was seen acting in the episode ‘Battle Hymn’ in the television series, ‘Kung Fu’ alongside Jose Feliciano and David Carradine.
Some of his popular numbers include, ‘The Here’, ‘The Jive Samba’, ‘Work Song’, ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ and ‘Walk Tall’
Personal Life & Legacy
He died of a stroke on August 8, 1975. He was buried in the Southside Cemetery, Tallahassee, Florida.
Posthumously, he was inducted into the Down Beat jazz Hall of Fame.
Following his death, a number of established singers and musicians came up with records to pay tribute to the legendary saxophonist that Adderley was. Weather Report’s ‘Black Market’ album released in 1976 had a track by the name of ‘Cannonball’ in memory of the great saxophonist. It was composed by Joe Zawinul.
Just days after his death, Pepper Adams and George Mraz dedicated the composition ‘Julian’ on their 1975 Pepper Adams album called ‘Julian Day’s’.