Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Julian "Cannonball" Adderley - The Barbara Gardner Interview [From the Archives]

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

In the following interview, Cannonball brings out some interesting expectations on the part of Jazz club owners and patrons about the “working conditions” of the times.

When I first started playing Jazz clubs, the first set began at 9:00 PM and the last set ended at 2:00 PM because the venues had as their prime focus - not the music - but the selling of booze.

Musician owned clubs like Shelly’s Manne Hole and Ronnie Scott’s in London, may have been exceptions to this rule, at least initially, but for the most part, the emphasis was not on the music or on the welfare of the musicians.

Under the circumstances, as Cannonball points out, there was simply no way that any musician could maintain a high level of creativity.

At the time of this its publication in the October 15, 1959 edition of Down Beat magazine Barbara Gardner was described as follows in the About the Writer insert:

“Barbara Gardner is a young Chicago writer who was born in Black Mountain, N. C. She was educated at Talladega College in Alabama, where she took a double major — English literature with a journalism minor, and education with a sociology minor.

In 1954 she moved to Chicago. She has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of jazz musicians. "I don't know how it happened. I just seemed to meet them all the time," she says. "And of course I was intensely interested in the music ever since I can remember."

Julian and Nat Adderley are her good personal friends, which adds an extra element of insight to her article on the gifted alto saxophonist. This is her first appearance in DOWN BEAT.”

“Jazz is currently enjoying — or suffering through — the most controversial era in its comparatively short history.

Great armed camps stand against each other. They are for or against traditionalism, modernism, progressivism, and even criticism. When critic meets writer, or Loyal Swing Fan meets Progressive True Believer, the blue tonalities and augmented chords are sure to fly until one camp has slashed the other sharply on its B-flat, and heaven help the bystanding neutral music lover who is audacious enough to intervene.

Underneath this furor, the musicians, of course, quietly go on about the business they feel is urgently important — the creation of music. But the critics and fans, not satisfied with dissecting the various "schools" and classes of jazz, have by now turned to taking apart individual performances. Here, the crisis shows itself — often in the form of open hostility as the jazzman loses patience at being scrutinized to determine whether he is a creator or an imitator, a miracle or a mirage.

Since 1955, one musician has been the object of this kind of examination and cross-examination perhaps more than any other. Wherever musicians or fans gather to discuss modern American music, his name crops up again and again. Dismissed hotly by some as unprogressive or acclaimed fervently for rugged individualism, "Cannonball" is fired into the debate. Here, say his admirers, is the man to be reckoned with as the leading altoist today.

The advent of Gannonball Adderley on the jazz scene was as instantaneous and forceful as his name might seem to suggest. If no one can remember his struggles for recognition in the cold and unexcitable city of New York, it is because he never struggled. His musical acceptance, achieved without effort, goes counter to all the accepted legends about heartbroken, unrecognized genius. He has, of course, worked consistently and hard. He has worked always in jazz, and with the greatest musicians. But his efforts did not go unrewarded; when he arrived in New York, he sat in one night with a group of name musicians in Greenwich Village — and was instantly recognized as a remarkable talent.

Yet the nickname "Cannonball" was not acquired as a symbol of the way he struck New York, bowling everyone over. Actually, it dates back to his high school days. His schoolmates, searching for a term that most aptly described his mammoth appetite, came up with "Cannibal." Time and the American propensity for word corruption gradually twisted this into "Cannonball."

Born simply Julian Edwin Adderley in Tampa, Fla., Cannon represented a talent always inherent in the Adderley clan. His father, Julian F, Adderley, was a noted jazz cornetist who presumed from the start that one of his two sons would play the same horn he did. But Cannon was not to be the one. After dabbling briefly with trumpet in high school, he turned to alto saxophone when he was 14, and it was left to his younger brother, Nat, to become the second famous cornetist in the Adderley family.

Cannon and Nat were something of a musical phenomenon in Tampa. Prior to their studies of instruments, the brothers were a temporary sensation as boy sopranos.
Nor was music the only area in which Julian's precociousness revealed itself. Academically, he skimmed along at a rapid pace, graduating from grammar school at 10, from high school at 15, and from Florida A&M. College at 18. At 19, an age when many adolescents are still going through preliminary bouts with the electric shaver, he was music instructor and band director of Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale.

He grew up fast in every way. This was wartime and, he recalls, "we didn't have any adolescence. I was a fast young musician with plenty of money in my pockets, the men were away at war, and the boys were left around to fill in until they came back."

By this time, Cannonball had been working for three years in local nightclubs and on weekend gigs. Even when he began teaching, lie took advantage of every possible opportunity to blow his horn in the free musical atmosphere of jazz bands and combos.

But his dual existence continued. He went on teaching at Dillard High, and his students were fortunate in having an instructor who was proficient on trumpet, flute, clarinet, tenor saxophone, and, of course, alto. But the bright lights and dreams of fame and fortune continued to pull at him.

His indecision was temporarily settled for him in 1952: he was drafted. Yet, even in the service, his singlemindedness toward music never faltered. He led both a small combo and a big band. And meantime, he was creating a strong impression on jazz musicians who heretofore had never heard of the youthful terror of Tampa. One of them was Clark Terry. Later, Terry was to bring Cannon to the attention of one of the leading recording firms.

When he was at last separated from the army, Cannon went for a time to the U.S. Naval School in Washington, D. C., to study reed instruments. Then, in 1954, he went back to Florida, determined to wipe the bright lights out of his eyes and resume teaching.

But by now the pull toward jazz was too strong. And in the summer of 1955, the Southland lost another of its sons to the glamour of that self-appointed jazz mecca of the world, New York. Cannon arrived in Manhattan at the same time as his brother Nat, who had just left the Lionel Hampton band. He lost no time making his presence known. A stroke of luck helped.

The night after his arrival, tenor saxophonist Jerome Richardson, then with Oscar Pettiford, was late for work at Greenwich Village's Cafe Bohemia. At the urging of musicians who had heard "of" Cannonball, Pettiford — with some reservations - allowed the young man from Tampa to sit in. The musicians' trick of "wasting" the newcomer by playing a difficult arrangement was tried on Adderley.

The musicians were astounded at the outcome of the trick, which is as old as jazz. Cannon romped through the rapid ensemble segment of I’ll Remember April, then established his authority with a long, well-executed solo. By the end of the night, there was no doubt about it. the Tampa Cannonball was in — a welcome soulbrother.

This dramatic impact on the musicians of New York was remarkably parallel to that of Cannon's major source of inspiration, the late Charlie Parker, who came to the big city in the late 1930s, after considerable woodshedding, and astounded musicians and critics alike with his fantastic mastery of his instrument. This parallel, however, taken with the fact that Cannon plays alto with the finely developed sense of timing, the well-defined beat and the flowing melodic sense that had been the stamp of Bird for more than a decade, helped form the only cloud over his career: critics and writers pitted him time after time against Parker in their comparisons.

The musicians' grapevine, second only to the housewife's back fence as a high-speed conveyor of information, spread the word about the new arrival from Florida. Within days, on the strength of this reputation, Cannon was on his way. Arranger Quincy Jones and Cannon's army buddy, Clark Terry, had brought the altoist's prowess to the attention of EmArcy Records. He was signed to a contract.

For a time, he continued to work with Oscar Pettiford. Later, he formed his own group, featuring brother Nat. But it was in 1958 that he began one of the associations for which he is best known: he joined the Miles Davis quintet for the Jazz for Moderns tour. He remained with Miles until last month, and became in the interim friend, business manager, and mediator to the gifted and individualistic trumpeter.

Miles' temperament is, of course, legend in the music business. A complex, seemingly contradictory man whom many persons find difficult to deal with, he is the subject of much talk and speculation. Cannon bristles if the subject is raised.
"I don't understand what all this is concerning Miles," he said. "Miles is just what he has always been. He doesn't try to be the way he is because he is a famous musician. He would be the same type of person if he were a truck driver. He is just
himself, and he doesn't feel that he has to conform for the sake of conformity."

The question of Miles" personality cannot, however, be dismissed that easily. For one thing, there is the observation that Billy Taylor recently made during a Blindfold Test (Down Beat, Sept. 3). "I have been interested," Taylor told Leonard Feather, "in Miles' effect on his side men; how, for instance, he changed Cannonball's way of playing and his approach to music . . . "

There are indications that Miles also had an effect on Cannon's personality, though the changes are subtle. Miles has the rare ability to impose not only some of his approach to music but also some of his personality on his men. Thus, while Cannon is by nature a warm, gregarious individual, he seems to have acquired, in a superficial way, some of the forthright sharpness that is an innate and natural trait in Miles.

Thus it will be seen that the decision to leaves Miles' group is a decisive one for the alto man. He retains a tremendous respect for the trumpeter as a creative force in music and, consciously or unconsciously, uses Miles as his norm in discussing other groups or individual performers.

The effects of Miles obviously were not in the main bad. For Cannonball is currently enjoying a steadily rising appreciation among critics, musicians, and the lay public.

After having been named in almost every leading poll in this country, and mentioned repeatedly in European voting, he capped it this year by winning the poll that many authorities think is the significant one: the International Jazz Critics' Poll conducted by Down Beat. He walked off with the New Star plaque for alto.

Cannon shares with many musicians the paradoxical position of denouncing all polls for their serious omissions and inconsistencies while at the same time admitting that he has long hoped to win one.

"Yes, I'm very proud to be a winner in this poll," he confessed self consciously.
"Everybody wants to feel that people are accepting their work." Then, as if he needed a more practical justification for his pleasure, he added: "Then, too, the polls represent your popularity, really, and your drawing power. When the public is aware of you, you can command better conditions for your efforts."

The "better conditions" would surely include an improvement in the working conditions in nightclubs where, he feels, there is little room  for creative playing. And that, after all, is what Cannonball is after.

"The nights are just too long in most places," he said. "And the conditions generally are bad — small crowded stages and poor sound systems.

"After the first couple of sets, there isn't too much happening in the way of real creativity. You can't just turn talent on and off all night for six or seven hours. They expect you to get up there and create something new seven times a night. "It just isn't possible.”

Now 31 years old, Julian Adderley is a tall man whose heavy build makes him an imposing figure. He has been on a diet of late, and has cut his weight from 300 pounds to a less cumbersome if not exactly svelte 230.

An articulate and extremely well-informed conversationalist, he has a disconcerting habit of spicing his speech with short, earthy expletives traditionally thought appropriate to the conversation of sailors. Of this profanity, he says: "Once in awhile, when you're among friends, you like to let your hair down and just tell it as it is."

Still a bachelor, Cannon thinks that maybe he'll settle down "in about five years." Meantime, he says, "I don't have time for permanent entanglements. When I do, all this travelling and nonsense is going to stop.

"I don't have any definite philosophy of living. I am just beginning to get things straightened out in my own mind. But I do believe that a person has a responsibility to do whatever makes him happy. Nowadays, you can't always take time to reason — or regret what is past.

"You just have to live each day for what it's worth."

He reflected a moment, then went on. "I've seen so many people in this business who just couldn't get their minds together because of worrying whether they should or should not do something. Sometimes they worry about what people are going to think of their actions.

"If you are going to worry, then you shouldn't do a thing in the first place."

For the present, Cannonball has his work and his challenge cut out for him. The departure from Miles gave him the chance to do what he had never really stopped thinking about: setting up another group featuring brother Nat. After touring as stars of the Newport Jazz Festival concert tour, Cannon and Nat hit the circuit Sept. 21 in Philadelphia.

As he and Nat prepared to go out with the group, he was noticeably excited about the chances, about the possibility of finding that new sound that musicians are always seeking.

He was aware, of course, that uncertainty is a stark reality of the jazz world. The artist is never allowed to relax on his laurels and be carried along on the wings of deeds remembered. There is no time allotted or assistance given to those who have been so indiscreet as to fall from favor. They have to step quickly and quietly out of the path as the procession moves resolutely on.

Vivid examples of such tragedies are plentiful in the history of jazz. But there is a possibility that the new generation of jazzmen, of which Cannon is a part, has learned a lesson from its less fortunate predecessors.

"This is a funny business" said Cannonball, summarizing his attitude to music and to his new group. "One day you're right up there on top, and the next day you can't find a job.

"I want to be protected against that kind of future."  


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