When Julian (Cannonball) Adderley died of a stroke at age 46, 10 years ago last month, his younger brother, cornetist Nat Adderley, initially planned to take a different path with his own music. The achievements of the quintet he shared with his late brother, he felt, could not be duplicated.
But within six months, he realized that the style of jazz his brother made famous, "the straight-ahead kind, is the music I love." Thus, he said, while in no sense trying to re-create the combo's sound, "since 1980 I've had a regular working unit and ever since then I've been going straight ahead."
Adderley will bring his group to One Step Down Friday and Saturday. Junior Cook will be on tenor saxophone, Larry Willis at the piano, Walter Booker on bass and Jimmy Cobb at the drums.
Adderley's current professional routine offers an example of the satisfactions the jazz life can provide. One- and two-week trips to Europe or Japan for concerts and festivals add up to about three months of overseas travel a year. These trips are interspersed with frequent college appearances and club dates in the United States.
"Trying to make hit records is not a part of what I want to do," he insists. "I probably could have switched and been more commercial, but being commercial at this point in my life is not really worth going into. It isn't about money, it is about self-satisfaction and about creating music that one honestly believes is good music for posterity's sake."
One element that has always been a vital constituent of the Adderleys' good music together is the blues. "I believe that the blues is an integral part of whatever we do," says Adderley. "It's a cry that comes through in the music. I could no more get rid of the blues than I could get rid of the me."
The outlines of Adderley's early life are similar in some respects to the histories of many black jazz musicians. "I came from a musical family," the Tampa, Fla., native says proudly. "My father played cornet and all of his brothers and sisters -- there were five of them -- were musical.
"The truth is my brother actually started me playing because my father bought him a trumpet. Cannonball was a good trumpet player, but he didn't have any endurance and he had no range. He was wise enough to know that, so he switched to alto saxophone and started teaching me to play trumpet so that Pop wouldn't be disappointed that neither one of the boys played the instrument that he played."
While Nat at one time played trumpet in big-band work with the orchestras of Lionel Hampton and Woody Herman, he eventually switched to cornet and it has remained his only instrument.
If Nat Adderley has established himself apart from his brother, the late alto saxophonist continues to cast a shadow.
"I think in the 10 years after Julian's death that he is gaining more respect," says Adderley. "A lot of people . . . particularly critics, missed what he was doing when he was doing it. By now Julian is almost becoming revered. Sometimes I hear things off of records that we did and I say to myself, 'I was standing right there, how did I miss it when it went by the first time?' He was really a tremendous player!"