This is a children's picture book that I have written about the late be-bop jazz trumpeter Nat Adderley. He is the younger brother of his more famous jazz saxophonist brother, Julian Canonball Adderley. This book is about Nat as a young boy, and how he learns to play the trumpet. The two brothers are early innovators of the be-bop genre. It also rhymes.
Little Nat loves his musical family, Dad plays piano he likes to twinkle the keys. Big brother plays the saxophone; his soulful swoons bring big girls to their knees. And Mom likes to sing, sweet songs with sweet melodies. Nat wants to be musical too.
Hey Nat, what can you do?
Nat tried the piano, but his fingers got lost in the keys. Then he tried the saxophone, but the reed made him sneeze. Last he tried his best to sing, but his voice sounded like a telephone’s ring. Nat wants to be musical too.
Hey Nat, what’s up with you?
One day Dad took Nat to the music store. “Go ahead Nat look around and explore.”
“Wow,” said Nat, “can I have that?”
There sitting in the store’s window for all to see was a trumpet of gold with three pearl keys. Nat held his trumpet up for all his family to see. Although he tried all day Nat could not play in the family way. Nat did not want to stay, but dad had something to say.
“Nat, you must search and find your own true song, then come back and join us and we’ll all swing along.”
Nat wants to be musical too.
Hey Nat, what will you do?
Nat went to see Pop Pop. He’ll know what to do. Pop Pop used to lead a band and even to this day he still sleeps with a baton in his hand. When Pop Pop saw Nat he started to chat.
“Hey Lil Nat that’s a mighty fine horn, can you play that?”
Nat blew and he blew, but his three pearl keys never made a twinkle, he tried a soulful swoon, but they sounded like a crinkle, and his sweet melody turned into a soft little wrinkle. Little Nat looked up at Pop Pop with tears in his eyes.
“Pop Pop I want to be musical too, now tell me what to do?”
Pop Pop looked at Nat and held up his baton. He said, “Nat close your eyes and listen, the world will sing you a song. If you pay close attention you can hear the sounds of the world- everything in the earth was made to sing, from a lion’s roar to an eagle’s soar, from the buzz of a bee to a fish’s splash in the sea.”
Nat closed his eyes and listened real close, he heard a baby’s soft giggles and a man crunching toast. He heard a blue bird sing, and a church bell ring.
Nat listened to Mrs. Johnson who lived at the end of the block. Back and forth in her old rocker all day she never stopped.
Nat put his trumpet to his mouth and blew out a sound.
BA-DA-BOP! BA-DA-BOP! “I got that sound down.”
Mrs. Johnson stopped rocking and yelled, “Little Nat that’s the coolest sound around.”
All day long Nat walked and listened to the world’s song. He played light and soft when he saw a butterfly and fast and hard when a jet fly by.
He played the VROOM, VROOM, VROOM of an automobile’s tune. He even played the SWISH, SWISH, SWISH of Mr. Ed, the barber’s broom.
Nat caught the sound of a big green toad. But then he heard a different sound coming from up the road. Nat ran towards the sound as fast as his legs would go. He found a group of men singing while building a road.
Standing in front of the group was an old gray man he leaned on a stick because he could barely stand. He hollered, he sang, he wailed and he grunt. His voice rose up and spread from the back to the front. His song was a Call that said, “We will all work as one; working all together till this job gets done.”
The strong group of men raised their hammers up, their voices sang out together, together was their Response, “Our hammers are one, and so are our hearts, for as long as you keep calling, we’ll rise and strike at once.”
Nat listened and watched, he watched and he listened. He heard in their song the story of his people: People that built great things, people that once were kings; people that could work the land, people that could lead a band; people that could sing holy songs, people that could blues all night long.
Then Nat placed his trumpet to his mouth and began to play along. The men’s hammers got stronger, they liked Nat’s song.
The old gray man smiled, tipped his hat and winked at Nat, he said, “Son, you sound good, I think you really got that.”
Little Nat loves his musical family, Dad plays piano he likes to twinkle the keys. Big brother plays the saxophone; his soulful swoons bring big girls to their knees. And Mom likes to sing, sweet songs with sweet melodies. Now Nat, well sometimes he likes to play hard like a rock, or sometimes he’ll play soft like a man walking in his socks. His family said, “Keep on playing Nat don’t you ever stop.” And they stopped calling him Lil Nat, now they call him Lil Be-Bop.