Julian Adderley was my friend. He was among the handful of people to whom I felt most closely connected during the two decades that I knew him. He was also a musician with whom I worked closely during two specific periods - the very important (to him and to me) six years between 1958 and 1964 that he spent with Riverside Records; and again on two 1975 projects during what turned out to be the last months of his life.
None of these facts are, in themselves, exactly unique. I have other friends, including musicians with whom I have spent uncountable quantities of time in the recording studio. More than a few of the musicians I find myself working with now are men I knew and worked with more than a few years ago. Other friends have died, including vastly talented musicians with whom I felt deep ties, like Wes Montgomery and Wynton Kelly.
No, none of these facts are unique, but the man was.
I first met Cannonball some time in 1957. I still remember with reasonable clarity the circumstances of that first meeting. As a matter of fact many of my memories of Cannon are in terms of specifically recalled scenes and incidents. And since - like me and like most of the people I've known in the jazz world - his life seemed in one way or another to be about 90 percent concerned with his music, those recollections and some of the thoughts and comments that they stir up can very suitably be presented here.
To start with that first meeting: I know it was '57, and I figure it for Spring or Summer- the circumstantial evidence being that I
was introduced to Cannon and his brother Nat by Clark Terry (whose own first Riverside album was recorded in April of that year), and that we were all standing around in front of a rather celebrated Greenwich Village jazz club called the Cafe Bohemia. That would seem to indicate a New York night too warm for either musicians or really hip customers to be inside the club between sets.
I liked the men, and it seemed pretty mutual; and I liked their music, but not nearly enough other people did because by late '57 the first Cannonball Adderley Quintet had disbanded. The Adderley brothers blamed their record company to some extent for their band's failure and Cannon began to take steps to terminate what proved to be a somewhat ambiguous contract with Mercury. By this time he was getting lots of moral encouragement from me, and Riverside (which
had Monk, and Bill Evans, and a couple of Sonny Rollins albums) was looking like an increasingly interesting label, and in June of 1958 he signed a recording contract with us.
What I remember above all from the meeting at which the signing took place was that Cannonball was accompanied by his personal manager. I don't think that I had ever before dealt with a musician who had a real
honest-to-God professional manager . Hell, Julian was only a sideman at that time, and the contract involved the lowest imaginable advance payments, and we even used the standard printed form contract that the musicians' union provided. But there was a manager (John Levy, eventually one of the busiest and. best, and associated with Adderley forever after) and there was one
special condition. Mercury, it seems, had only recorded Cannon's working group once (and hadn't issued that album until after the group broke up). So I promised that, as soon as Julian re-formed a band, and just as soon as he felt ready to record - whenever and wherever that might be - I would go there and record them. An interesting verbal commitment
: a non-existent band would be promptly recorded someplace on the road by a still very shoestring company that had never sent its staff producer, me, to work any further than a subway ride away from home. But it turned out to be one of the neatest examples of good results of bread-cast-upon the-waters since the Bible.
The way I saw it, Julian was one of the most completely alive human beings I had ever encountered. Seeing and hearing him on the bandstand, you realized the several things that went to make up that aliveness:
he was both figuratively and literally larger than life-sized; he was a multifaceted man and it seemed as if all those facets were constantly in evidence, churning away in front of you; and each aspect of him was consistent with every other part - so that you were automatically convinced that it was totally real and sincere, and you were instantly and permanently charmed.
That last paragraph is the emotional way of saying it; if I try real hard I can be more factual and objective. He was a big man and a joyous man. He was a player and a composer and a leader, and when someone else was soloing he was snapping his fingers and showing his enjoyment, and before and after the band's numbers he talked to the audience (not talking at them or just making
announcements, but really talking to them and saying things about the music - some serious, some very witty.)
His audience was then (and remained) pretty unique; in assembling that first Jazz Workshop album I somehow got the daring idea of not only including some talk
but giving it the same position on record that it had in the club. So that the album opened with almost a minute and a half of Julian conversing about "This Here" before you heard a note of music, and apparently it was a good idea... since the album turned into a huge hit ... We were all successful and
very happy with each other. We stayed with the formula a lot - and years later, when he had an even bigger hit for Capitol with "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" he explained it to me as "I finally talked Capitol into recording me the right way; the way you and I used to do
it".' In this ego-heavy music business, how can you not love a man like that?
Riverside in the Cannonball years was a very happy place ... He was the kind of star who volunteered his services as a sideman (at union scale) for the record dates of men he liked and respected.
He was an intensely loyal man, and he inspired loyalty. In the 16 years between the re-forming of his quintet and his death, he had only two drummers ... and not many more bass players ... My own strongest recollections of his loyalty relate, not too surprisingly, to when his contracts with Riverside were running out. The first time in 1961, he was a very hot artist and we were pretty resigned to his being seduced away. by major-league money. We made our best gesture - and he took it, even though it turned out to be much less than at least one major label had offered.
The reason he gave, that he felt comfortable and at home among friends with Riverside, was just corny enough to be obviously true. Even more impressive was
the way he behaved in the Spring of '64. The label was then almost on the rocks ... I
was fighting for survival and losing. So Julian volunteered that, regardless of what
other companies might come up with, he'd simply extend his contract with us for another year. It could be announced as a re-signing and obviously the news would be a big help ...
he kept offering and I kept hedging, and eventually one day I called him and said, in effect "This is final; we're not going to be able
to make it, so don't stay with us. "Even if I cal you tomorrow with a different story,
don't pay any attention ..:' (I was right incidentally ; about ten days after his contract
was allowed to run out, Riverside closed its doors.)
For about eight years thereafter, we succeeded in the very tricky art of being ex-coworkers who remained friends. Sometimes we didn't see each other for long periods of time; on other occasions we go around to talking at great length on both musical and non-musical subjects. Most musicians I have known are (understandably enough) so wrapped up in themselves and their art that
the rest of the world just doesn't hold their interest ... But Cannon happened to be vitally interested in all of life... He was also one of the few people I have ever come across who could consistently talk as much as I do. I'd say that his old friend Pete Long and I were only partly joking when we claimed that someday we were going to run
him for Senator.