Cannonball Adderly, George Duke-Music Masters

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Cannonball Adderly

When the names Cannonball Adderly and George Duke come up, music masters come to mind. I rediscovered Cannonball Adderly the other day after listening to an album recorded in 1969- Country Preacher.

I played trumpet in my high school jazz band, and attended a University of Illinois Jazz Workshop in 1970 or 71. One of the guests at this workshop was saxophonist extraordinaire- Julian Edwin “Cannonball” Adderly. Standing less than fifty feet from him as he whipped out his sax and wailed, I was floored by his musicianship. Shortly after, I bought his Country Preacher album, one which sounds great to this day.

Julian’s healthy appetite earned him the high school nickname “cannibal”, which morphed into “Cannonball”. Beginning as a Florida High School band director in, Cannonball moved to New York in 1955. He and younger brother Nat (cornet player extraordinaire) formed a band, the first time not quite successful.

Cannonball then joined Miles Davis and recorded the albums Somethin’ Else, Milestones, and Kind of Blue with Davis’ band-stellar albums.

This time, the reformed Cannonball Adderly Quintet (featuring Nat Adderly) was a smash. This Here, The Jive Samba, Work Song, Mercy, Mercy Mercy, Walk Tall, and Pops Staples’ Why (Am I Treated So Bad)? were just some of his more well-known pieces.

Sadly, Cannonball Adderly died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1975. He was only 46 years old, but his music lives on.

Cannon Ball Adderly – Country Preacher album

George Duke

Keyboard genius/composer/vocalist/producer George Duke actually played with Cannonball Adderly between 1971 and 1972 after first performing with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and (believe it or not) Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention (joining him again 1973-1975). His musicianship and wild sense of humor fit right in with Zappa. George originally had no intention of singing, but Frank gave him his first synthesizer and urged him to sing. The following ensued:

George Duke’s first recorded vocals and synthesizer- Inca Roads

After leaving Zappa, George Duke would play with Billy Cobham, Sonny Rollins, Stanley Clarke, and many others, besides recording several hit solo albums. He was also a highly successful producer of many of the eighties’ hits. Here is a more in-depth bio:

George Duke passed from this earth August 5, 2013 from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a year after Corine (his wife of 40 years) passed from cancer complications.


Cannonball Adderly and George Duke each left a broad legacy of music for us to marvel. Both started out as teachers and, not surprisingly, left us as teachers. They were indeed music masters. Check them out…

© 2020 J. Mark Witters Skyypilot Media