Walk Tall: The Music and Life of Julian Walk Tall: The Music and Life of Julian “Cannonball” Adderley by Cary Ginell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Initial reaction: I think a part of why I loved this account of Cannonball Adderley’s life was because of how well it portrayed the man’s efforts and accomplishments as well as his personality. This is a rather excellent biography which gives interesting inside details – particularly in the form of interviews, personal narratives, among other inclusions – of Adderley’s rise to fame as a Jazz musician and contributor. I was very happy to not only rediscover his music, but discover the man himself.

Full review:

Julian “Cannonball” Adderley was an extraordinarily talented man who went too soon. He contributed so much in terms of the Jazz community, to the people he knew, and to whatever he set his mind to doing, whether it was teaching, playing music or dedicating himself to speaking out for civil rights. I think the title’s very appropriate, noting the common link of one of his works, because Adderley was the definition of someone who could “Walk Tall”, and had the personality to match.

Jazz is one of my first loves in music. Having been acquainted with Adderley’s work since I was introduced in a class at my undergraduate uni, I knew there was no way that I’d turn down the chance to read this book. Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” and even Adderley’s own “Something Else” are two of my favorite Jazz albums. Saw this book as an ARC, leapt for the opportunity, and was over the moon when I got it. I didn’t know what to expect from Cary Ginell’s account, but having read the whole of it, I thought it was an excellent biography, complete with comments from Adderley himself, his family, loved ones, friends, collegues, and tons of information setting the tone of the time, Adderley’s work, and contributions. I appreciated the foreword by Quincy Jones and the preface by Dan Morgenstern, both of whom remember Adderley in brief but potent pieces. For the most part, the biography is presented in chronological order, discusses the major turning points of Adderley’s career and personal life, and provides enough backdrop and context to the time he lived. I even appreciated the insight on Adderley’s associations and how they linked to other composers and Jazz musicians. I learned quite many things from this that I didn’t know about his life and personality.

I think the biggest hurdle to get over when considering this biography is that you do have to know some of the major Jazz players before picking this up, at least on a base level. Otherwise it can be a sea of names and compositions in points that you may not always have the context. I think the narrative does a great job of establishing how the musicians were involved in Adderley’s life, work, and space, however. For a resource for research, this is certainly go-to reading, because it does provide all you may need to know about Adderley’s life and then some, with some factoids that are interesting that I didn’t even consider (I had no idea that Adderley did a cameo with the Nutty Squirrels, which can be linked to Ross Bagdasarian, creator of Alvin and the Chipmunks.)

For what its worth, picking this up made me seek out more of Adderley’s work to explore, and I think the narrative provides an apt timeline of each of the major pieces, their impact, their tone, and what went behind the creation of them. It’s really an enlightening read, and certainly worth the time taken to peruse.

Overall score: 4.5/5

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation.

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