Nat Adderley Day

November 25, 1931 – January 2, 2000

A tribute to the cornetist and composer of “Work Song”

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Cornetist, composer and leader Nathaniel Adderley was born November 25, 1931 in Tampa, Florida.

The younger brother of Cannonball Adderley, Nat began playing trumpet in 1946, switched permanently to cornet in 1950.

After serving in the military during 1951-53 and working with Lionel Hampton during part of 1954-55, Adderley seemed destined to become a schoolteacher in Florida, as did his brother.

But when they sat in with Oscar Pettiford’s group at New York’s Café Bohemia in the summer of 1955, they caused a sensation that resulted in the brothers recording and forming a quintet led by Cannonball.

That particular bop-oriented band did not make it despite some exciting recordings, and Nat worked with J.J. Johnson and the Woody Herman Sextet while Cannonball spent a period as a member of the Miles Davis Sextet.

The new Cannonball Adderley Quintet debuted in Oct. 1959 and their live recording of Bobby Timmons’ “This Here” was a hit, resulting in their band becoming one of the most popular jazz groups of the 1960s.

Nat Adderley, a powerful cornetist influenced by Miles Davis but with his own fiery style, proved to be a skilled songwriter too who wrote such numbers as “Work Song,” “Jive Samba,” “Sermonette,” “Hummin’” and “The Old Country.”

He was the “brass section” with his brother’s band until Cannonball died in 1975.

Although his cornet chops were starting to decline, Nat Adderley led his own successful and similar quintet with Sonny Fortune and eventually Vincent Herring playing alto until his retirement in 1997.

Taken from Oscar Brown Jr’s famous Jazz Scene USA television series in 1962, here is the Cannonball Adderley Sextet performing Nat’s “Work Song.”


Nat Adderley, cornet
Cannonball Adderley, alto
Yusef Lateef, tenor
Joe Zawinul, piano
Sam Jones, bass
Louis Hayes, drums

-Scott Yanow


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