Music arranger and pianist Nat Adderley, Jr. was born on May 23, 1955 to Nat Adderley, Sr. and Ann James in Quincy, Florida. Adderley attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan, New York. In high school, he performed and wrote music for his father’s group, the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. Adderley also worked as a keyboardist for R&B singer Valerie Simpson. Adderley earned his B.A. degree in African American studies from Yale University in 1977.
In 1981, Adderley became the music director for Luther Vandross. Adderley arranged the music for Vandross’ 1981 album, Never Too Much on the songs “Never Too Much” and “Sugar and Spice (I Found Me a Girl).” He then co-wrote the song “Better Love” for Vandross’ 1982 album, Forever, for Always, for Love. In 1984, Adderley arranged “Superstar,” as well as “If Only for One Night” and “Creepin’” for Vandross’ album, The Night I Fell In Love. He co-wrote Vandross’ first top twenty hit, “Stop to Love” and arranged the songs “So Amazing” and “Give Me Reason” from the album, Give Me Reason. In 1988, Adderley arranged the songs “I Wonder” and “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” for Vandross’ album, Any Love. The album was nominated for a 1989 Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. Adderley also played keyboard for Vandross’ 1991 Grammy award winning album, Power of Love. He produced Vandross’ albums Your Secret Love, Luther Vandross, and the Grammy award winning album, Dance with My Father. Adderley arranged Vandross’ 2003 Grammy award-winning duet with Beyonce Knowles, “The Closer I Get to You,” which won for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. He then produced the live album, Luther’s Live 2003 at Radio City Music Hall.
In addition to his work with Vandross, Adderley has worked with several other musicians. He arranged the songs for Aretha Franklin’s 1983 album, Jump To It, the string section for Doc Powell’s Grammy nominated song “What’s Going On” and Natalie Cole’s song “When I Fall in Love.” Recordings of Adderley playing piano were used by playwright August Wilson for his play The Piano Lesson in 1990. Adderley later formed the Nat Adderley, Jr. Trio.
Nat Adderley, Jr. was interviewed by The Historymakers on January 19, 2017.