Jazz Birthdays: Julian “Cannonball” Adderley (1928) and Bobby Short (1926)

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Cannonball Adderley was an alto saxophonist who played hard bop and later brought soul jazz and modal jazz into his music. He fronted a quintet and a sextet with his cornetist brother, Nat. He is very well known for having played on the albums “Kind of Blue” and “Somethin’ Else” with Miles Davis. I’ve selected the standard “Autumn Leaves” from the latter album.

Adderley has a warm, full, beautiful singing tone, with no trace of hardness. He could easily have been one of the best lead alto sax players in a big band. His sound is blues rooted. He has complete command of his instrument, with bold assured playing and a pleasing vibrato. He is all over the chords and often exuberant. He creates surprise by holding a note and then releasing into a burst of melody. Cannonball could jump into the upper register with ease and maintain his good sound and perfect intonation. He made very satisfying music that will last for the ages, and of course he always swings.

Bobby Short, baritone singer, worked out of the Café Carlyle for 35 years performing as saloon singer and pianist, interpreting the Great American Songbook and bringing to life many unknown songs of high caliber. He made a living singing at an early age. Having arrived in New York from Illinois and not yet 13, he ran into the child labor laws. His manager bypassed this problem by getting him the birth certificate of a 16-year old boy who had died. Following Mabel Mercer’s lead, with whom he was friendly, his high art was in making lyrics come alive through his unique phrasing, emphasis and sound. He could make you understand a lyric as you never did before, such as “Carioca”, by slowing the tempo down and using pauses. It’s fitting to hear him sing Cole Porter’s “You Do Something To Me”.

6:17 am on September 15, 2012