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The Adderleys take flight

The Seven Summer Sessions of 1955

Following their "discovery" at the Café Bohemia in June 1955, the Adderleys, and Cannonball in particular, became the talk of the town on the New York jazz scene. They were to record a total of five albums across seven studio dates over the following six weeks, as producers scrambled to sign up the new alto star. While the first of these, Savoy's "Bohemia After Dark", became a classic, the other mid-1955 sessions have been eclipsed by the Adderleys' later Quintet recordings. Let us revisit, then, the proceedings of those heady summer months, the first flush of one of jazz's greatest fraternal partnerships...


Session #1: "Bohemia After Dark" (Kenny Clarke Septet, Savoy)

NYC, June 28, 1955

Nat Adderley, cornet; Donald Byrd, trumpet; Cannonball Adderley, alto sax; Jerome Richardson, tenor sax, flute; Horace Silver, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Kenny Clarke, drums. Tracks: With Apologies to Oscar, Hear Me Talkin' to Ya, Willow Weep for Me, Bohemia After Dark, Chasm, Late Entry.

"The swing, excitement and informality that we've tried to impart on this record is but a small portion of that which can be heard nightly at the CAFÉ BOHEMIA, and after hearing this you are sure to make this room one of your favorites for Jazz in New York." - Ozzie Cadena, Notes and Supervision (original Savoy release)


Cary Ginell, in his 2013 biography, clarifies the circumstances of this historic session, in the wake of Cannonball's debut at the Bohemia: "After playing with Cannonball for the entire week, Kenny Clarke invited Julian and Nat to play on his next date for Savoy Records, which Clarke had arranged with Savoy Records producer Ozzie Cadena. The session took place on June 28, 1955, one week after Cannonball began playing regularly with Pettiford. Two other members of Pettiford's band were recruited to play on the session - pianist Horace Silver and saxophonist Jerome Richardson - but Cadena decided against using Pettiford himself after refusing to agree to Pettiford's demand that Silver be fired. Instead, Clarke hired 20-year-old bassist Paul Chambers, who had been playing with a trio at the club opposite Pettiford's band. He also added 22-year-old trumpeter Donald Byrd, later to become a major figure in the funk/soul-jazz revolution of the 1960s and '70s. Both Chambers and Byrd were making their recording debuts. The group recorded six tunes that day. The set included the ironically titled "With Apologies to Oscar" (based on the chord changes to "Sweet Georgia Brown") and the aforementioned "Bohemia After Dark", which eventually became a standard crowd-pleaser in Cannonball's own Quintet."


The album cover of the first release shows a photograph of the marquee of the Café Bohemia, the names of the band members and photographs of them either on the Bohemia's bandstand or in the studio. The cover was subsequently revised to reflect Cannonball's sudden celebrity status, showing the band standing around Clarke at his drum set, but with the album title and "featuring Cannonball" as the only identifiers. Then, as Ginell puts it, "a third cover eventually replaced this one, featuring a provocative image of a topless model coyly standing next to an off-kilter lamppost."

Reviewing Clarke's mid-50s output on Savoy, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD judges that "the essential record is Bohemia After Dark, featuring the Adderleys at their antagonistic best and Byrd still sounding like a man who'd drunk at Dizzy's cup. These are perhaps Clarke's finest hour, certainly as a leader, and 'Late Entry', which Byrd sits out, should be in everybody's collection."

Session #2: "Presenting 'Cannonball'" (Cannonball Adderley Quintet, Savoy)

NYC, July 14, 1955

Nat Adderley, cornet; Cannonball Adderley, alto sax; Hank Jones, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Kenny Clarke, drums. Tracks: Spontaneous Combustion, Still Talkin' To Ya, A Little Taste, Caribbean Cutie, Flamingo, We'll Be Together Again

Ginell continues: "The Pettiford gig went for a second week, and then after a July 4 break, the band proceeded to an unspecified club in Manhattan, where they played until July 10. By this time Cannonball was being courted by some of the major labels in town, so Savoy hurriedly scheduled a solo session for him, knowing that he would probably end up signing with one of the them. The session was held on July 14. For this date Cannonball handpicked a quintet with the configuration that he would use for his entire career. [...] All of the songs were written by Julian except the standard 'Flamingo', showcasing the brothers' love for the blues right from the start. Like the Clarke LP, 'Presenting Cannonball', released one week later, featured an album-cover photo of the Quintet members surrounding Clarke's drums. Once again Cannonball's surname was left out; the explosiveness implied by his first name was all that was necessary. Both discs received raves from Down Beat's reviewer, Nat Hentoff." In later issues, Savoy adopted a more symbolic cover design, as if to prepare the listener to brace for impact.

Session #3 (5 & 6): "Julian 'Cannonball' Adderley" (Cannonball Adderley Octet, EmArcy)

NYC, July 21 & 29, August 5, 1955

Nat Adderley, cornet; Jimmy Cleveland or J.J. Johnson trombone; Cannonball Adderley, alto sax; Jerome Richardson, tenor sax, flute; Cecil Payne, baritone sax; John Williams, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Kenny Clarke or Max Roach, drums; Quincy Jones, arranger. Tracks: The Song is You, Cynthia's in Love, Hurricane Connie, Purple Shades, Cannonball, Everglade, You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To, Willows, Fallen Feathers, Rose Room

Within another week, Cannonball had signed a multi-year contract with Mercury Records and its new jazz subsidiary EmArcy. Quincy Jones, who had informed Mercury producer Bob Shad about Cannonball's Bohemia debut, was engaged as arranger for the first session. Ginell again: "Quincy Jones wrote tasteful "little big band" arrangements for all of the songs. As would become his habit, Cannonball recorded compositions with hidden meanings, such as Jones's 'Fallen Feathers', a wistful number inspired by Charlie Parker's 'Parker's Mood'; Cannonball's Cuban-flavored 'Nat's Everglade' (in reference to their Florida upbringing); and 'Cannonball', a bubbly reflection of Cannonball's joyous personality. [...] The first album for EmArcy did what it was supposed to do: show off the mature sound of a new talent on the jazz scene."


Michael J. Nastos, reviewing for Allmusic, concludes that: "Nothing on the album screams as a standout, but there's an even-keeled consonance that is very enjoyable, and lingers to the point where you want to listen again and again. That enduring quality makes this recording special, and set the bar high for what Adderley would produce through a long and fruitful career as a jazz master. This album is the seed for that field of flowers."

Session #4: "'That's Nat' Adderley" (Nat Adderley Quintet, Savoy)

Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, July 26, 1955

Nat Adderley, cornet; Jerome Richardson, tenor sax, flute; Hank Jones, piano; Wendell Marshall, bass; Kenny Clarke, drums. Tracks: Porky, Kuzzin's Buzzin', Big "E", Ann Springs, I Married An Angel, You Better Go Now

In between the first EmArcy sessions, Nat went back to Savoy to record his own solo debut album, this time without Cannonball. In the view of the The Penguin Guide, "Nat was always the more incisive soloist [of the two brothers], with a bright, ringing tone that most obviously drew on the example of Dizzy Gillespie but in which could be heard a whole raft of influences from Clark Terry to Henry 'Red' Allen to the pre-post-modern Miles of the 1950s. 'I Married An Angel' on 'That's Nat' suggests that Bobby Hackett be added to that roster. A gorgeously toned ballad performance which keeps referring to the original tune, it's perhaps the best single track on a beautifully remastered recording. Jones's comping is inch-perfect throughout and Clarke is right on the case, often following Adderley outside the basic count for a phrase or two".

Session #7: "Introducing Nat Adderley" (Nat Adderley Quintet, Wing)

NYC, August 6-15, 1955

Nat Adderley, cornet; Cannonball Adderley, alto sax; Horace Silver, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Roy Haynes, drums. Tracks: Fort Lauderdale, Sun Dance, Friday Nite, Blues for Bohemia, Watermelon, Little Joanie Walks, Two Brothers, I Should Care, Crazy Baby, New Arrivals

A follow-up to Cannonball's EmArcy debut, this second Mercury album, on its subsidiary Wing label, was marketed under Nat's name and concluded that summer's flurry of recording dates for the two brothers before their return to Florida. Ginell notes that "once again, the song titles hinted at elements from the Adderleys' life, including 'Fort Lauderdale' (Cannonball's teaching job was still waiting for him), 'Two Brothers' and 'Little Joanie Walks', inspired by Bob Shad's infant daughter, who had just taken her first steps." The Penguin Guide considers Introducing "a buoyant, exuberant set created by a band who sound as if they have absolutely nothing to prove." And yet, this was just the beginning...

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