Wessell Anderson

Warm It Up, Warmdaddy!

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Wessell Anderson's alto saxophone style has been criminally underrated in the face of equally excellent but more acclaimed artists like Kenny Garrett and Phil Woods. An unfazed and on-fire Anderson continues to prove his formidable mettle on these recordings with a quartet spanning hard bop, Latin-infused music, and bluesy swing with a contemporary flavoring. The effortless way he plays either fluid dynamic lines or fever-pitch active phrases should by now convince one and all that this musician has mastered his craft. He's teamed with relative unknowns in pianist Lawrence Sieberth and drummer Mark Gully, who are more than able and accomplished in supporting Anderson's straight-ahead inclinations, while bassist Roland Guerin is an established pro who can swing and jibe with the best of his young and experienced peer group. Anderson is fond of taking established standards and renaming and reworking them to his own extrapolated taste level, a concept he has dubbed as contrafacts. There's the high-register singsong ostinato bass-driven neo-bopper "What Is Dat Thang?," taken from the basic changes of "What Is This Thing Called Love?"; the calypso to swing "I'll Forget May," changed up from "I'll Remember April"; and the golf-inspired "Fore," a jaunty jazz ditty taken from "Four." "All the Thangz You Ain't" is a reversal of "All the Things You Are" in a conversely lighthearted, easy blues, while "Balto Will You Please Come Home" is solidly in the vintage jazz tradition with a slight twist. A combo concept tune, "Monk by Starlight" is a simple straight-ahead head-noddin' hard bopper, while "Space Nakamura-san" sports the infectious and sexy contemporary beat pegged many years ago by Ahmad Jamal that is a staple of hip-hop music. The recording also offers an Eric Dolphy-styled stinging and angular hard bopper, "Strickly Platonic," and much faster alternate takes of "Balto" and "I'll Forget May." Anderson's playing continues to be marvelously drawn from Charlie Parker -- the best example being the legato-styled title track -- while adding on new flavors and supplements. He's one of the most vital players on the scene, and has been for well over a decade. While a stroke in 2007 dangerously curtailed his career, Wessell Anderson is back with this relentlessly swinging affair that keeps the foot on the gas pedal and charges hard for the finish line.

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