Work Song (Adderley song)

Jazz standard by Nat Adderley
Headshot photo of man with a goatie.
Nat Adderley in 1969.

"Work Song" is a work song and jazz standard[1] by American trumpeter Nat Adderley and writer Oscar Brown Jr. It was first featured in Adderley's 1960 studio album of the same name, which was met with high praise and acclaim.[2][3] "Work Song" is regarded as one of Adderley's best known compositions.[4]

The song was originally only an instrumental, but Oscar Brown Jr. included lyrics in a cover released the following year on his album, Sin & Soul.[5]


Many prisoners chained together standing together.
Picture of a Southern chain gang circa 1903.

"Work Song" was inspired by Nat Adderley's childhood experience of seeing a group of convict laborers singing while they worked on a chain gang, paving the street in front of his family’s home in Florida.[6]

Musical composition

The song is a 16 bar form in F minor. It is a minor blues.[7]

F-7 𝄎[a] 𝄎 𝄎
𝄎 𝄎 C7 𝄎
F-7 𝄎 𝄎 𝄎
F7 Bb7 G7 C7 F-7

The Penguin Guide to Jazz states: "'Work Song' is the real classic, of course, laced with a funky blues feel but marked by some unexpectedly lyrical playing."[8] In a musical analysis of Adderley's improvisational bebop style, Kyle M. Granville writes that the song is "connected to the soul-jazz style that Nat Adderley and his brother Cannonball Adderley immersed themselves into during the mid-1960s."[9]


  1. ^ This indicates to stay on the chord that came before. See: Grid notation


  1. ^ Saunders, Martin Wesley. Nat Adderley (1931-2000) and Work song : an analysis of improvisational style and evolution. OCLC 690253067.
  2. ^ Yanow, S. Allmusic Review accessed February 17, 2010.
  3. ^ Larkin, Colin (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of 60s Music (3rd ed.). Virgin Books Ltd. p. 9. ISBN 1 85227 933 8.
  4. ^ Micucci, Matt (2020-11-25). "Song of the Day: Cannonball Adderley Quintet, "Work Song"". JAZZIZ Magazine. Retrieved 2022-08-13.
  5. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Oscar Brown, Jr.: Sin & Soul – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  6. ^ Gridley, Mark (2014). "Review of Walk Tall: The Music and Life of Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. (The Hal Leonard Jazz Biography Series); Jazz Icons: Heroes, Myths and the Jazz Tradition". Notes. 71 (1): 108–112. ISSN 0027-4380.
  7. ^ Vaartstra, Brent (2013-05-30). "Work Song". Learn Jazz Standards. Retrieved 2022-08-13.
  8. ^ Cook, Richard; Brian Morton (2006) [1992]. The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings. The Penguin Guide to Jazz (8th ed.). London: Penguin. pp. 11. ISBN 978-0-141-02327-4.
  9. ^ M, Granville, Kyle (2020-01-01). A Musical Analysis of the Improvisational Bebop Style of Nat Adderley (1955-1964). [email protected] of Nebraska - Lincoln. OCLC 1286934150.