Nat Adderly Jr.

*Nat Adderley Jr. has encroached musical bounderies with relative ease, although he’s very reluctant to admit it. A gentleman born in the roots of jazz, having come from great stock, (his uncle was musical legend Cannonball Adderley,) Nat has performed on many contemporary projects, with some of the biggest artists of our time.

There are few musicians that are able to cross multi-genre lines with relative ease. Why? Because the learning curve from one genre to another can present its share of challenges. Nat Adderley Jr. realizes those challenges.

“With jazz it’s hard,” he laughed. “Real hard to play. I would say most people, not all, but I think most people that really are strong on one side, in one idiom are not as strong as they think when they hop over the fence and try to play the other thing.”

However, the humble musician, arranger and pianist has done quite a job straddling the fence between a few musical idioms. Adderley has established a huge niche for himself for his critically acclaimed work with the late great Luther Vandross, penning and arranging Vandross’ first pop hit, “Stop To Love.” He also has arranged or composed several other Vandross hits,  including “Wait For Love,” the Grammy-nominated “Give Me The Reason,” “Superstar,” “Here and Now,” “If Only For One Night,” “Creeping,” “If This World Were Mine,” “So Amazing,” “There’s Nothing Better Than Love,”and “Love Won’t Let Me Wait, ” among many others.

He produced tracks on Vandross’ last seven studio albums, which included “My Favorite Things,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Going Out Of My Head,” and “Knocks Me Off My Feet.” He also produced “The Closer I Get To You,” a Vandross duet with music superstar Beyonce which can be heard on Beyonce’s mega-successful work “Dangerously In Love,” which won the Grammy in 2004 for best R&B performance by a duo or group.  

“She is a session singer,” said Adderley Jr. of Beyonce who sang with Vandross on Luther’s “Dance With My Father” recording. “I always respected her a lot. I always thought she was great. But she’s quite a session singer as it turns out. They booked two four-hour sessions to record. The first session was 5-9PM, I remember. So I called about 8 o’ clock.” Adderley was surprised at Vandross’s next statement. “Luther said, ‘we are done,'” he said, impressing on Beyonce’s professionalism and prowess. “Beyonce is excellent. She’s quite a musician besides being the performer and the gorgeous person you know about.”    

In 2003, Nat produced Luther’s “Live 2003 at Radio City Music Hall.”  Nat was Luther’s musical director from 1981 until his death. Additionally, he’s worked with Johnny Gill, Kirk Whalam, Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin and several of pop’s biggest musical icons.

He also works with saxophonist Tom Scott and several other artists, and performs all over the world from New York to California, Asia and Europe. But although jazz is his true love, he was made a living playing more comtemporary music.

“For the first time in my life after all this time, being more into Pop and R&B – I was always playing jazz in clubs here and there but clearly my career has been being in Pop and R&B,” said Adderley Jr., who received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Yale University in 1978.

He worked on Ruben Studdard’s last record, which gave him an opportunity to work with legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

“I took that project because it was them and Ruben,” he laughed. “But the jazz has just taken everything I have.”

Clearly, jazz is a much more difficult idiom to perform than popular music. On the marriage that some artists attempt, Adderley respects the innovations of some of today’s artists.

“In terms of new artists, they’ll sample jazz records sometimes and riff over it or they’ll put it in time, put it right on that beat and rap over it, he explained. “But it’s all related. Wherever you are, you can draw influences and bend them into what you’re doing,” he said.  

Someday, the jazz stylings of Nat Adderley Jr. needs to be captured on record to preserve the outstanding legacy of his amazing contributions to the music industry.

“I’ve never done a record under my own name,” he admitted. “I’ve been accosted by people all over the place for years and years, saying ‘When are you going to do your record?’ I just never wanted to. I always preferred being a sideman in jazz and the pop stuff, I’ve just always wanted make others look good. I wanted to do the arrangements and produce, but it was always for somebody else. But where I am now, I guess I’ll have to try to approach that sometime soon, this year I guess.”

If he did do a project, it would spotlight his individual artistry.

“It would be instrumental, very musical and more playing,” he explained. “I’m just trying to concentrate on playing more right now. I would say that 15 years ago, I was concentrating on songwriting more and 20 years ago I was concentrating on producing and before that I wanted to arrange, I just wanted to be an arranger. So now finally after all these years I see my life playing the piano.”   

Last night in Hollywood, Nat Adderley Jr. brought his music to the Catalina Jazz Club (www.catalinajazzclub.com) for a gig produced by promoter Leonard Herring Jr.

Billed as “Nat Adderley Jr and Longineu Parsons, The Music of Cannonball Adderley and Nat Adderley,” the evening proved to be enchanting, with classic melodies and songs like “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” “Autumn Leaves,” and several other Cannonball Adderley standards.

“It’s brand new, but we’re feeling good about it,” said Nat Adderley Jr., who has every right to feel that way. After all, the unassuming arranger, composer and producer has been making others shine for years. Now it’s his turn to take his well-deserved spotlight.