Big Alto Saxophonists. A copy of Sherman Irby’s new disc, Big Mama’s Biscuits (also reviewed this month) recently crossed my desk and got me to thinking about alto saxophone players who were also physically large men, such as the corpulent Irby. While this specialized population would include Bird when he was healthy, I was thinking more along the lines of Julian «Cannonball» Adderley and those that followed him. I went on to listen to a lot of Cannon’s music, from the Miles Davis Sextet of Milestones and Kind of Blue to his Be Bop quintet and Soul Jazz groups (who cannot like «Mercy, Mercy, Mercy» even if it is simple and might not be jazz at all to some listeners?). While listening to Adderley, I was trying to remember the name of another young alto giant (giant alto?) who was currently part of the young lions movement.
That giant revealed himself while listening to Wynton Marsalis? The Majesty of the Blues. Yes, the altoist I was thinking about was Wessell ?Warmdaddy? Anderson. I knew that he had released some solo work in the past several years. I went looking for some stumbled across the newly released Wessel ?Warmdaddy? Anderson Live at the Village Vanguard. I asked myself, ?How can a jazz listener possibly go wrong buying a Village Vanguard live album by an alto player with the great moniker, ?Warmdaddy??? This recording represents Anderson?s debut on Leaning House Records after having recorded two other solo outings for Atlantic Jazz.
Hommage a Saxophone. Anderson winks at several of the giants upon whose shoulders he stands. This recording contains six standards and three originals, and each deserve comment:
?African Cowboy?. A bi-directional nod to Sonny Rollins? ?I?m an Old Cowhand? and Oliver Nelson?s ?Hoedown? with some super home-on-the-range piano by Xavier Davis. Contains some Irvin Mayfield trumpet squeaks that make this a perfect live recording.
?Now?s The Time?. Bird?s blues played straight through the filter of Post Bop Modernism.
?Dis Here?. Cannon?s hit penned by Hard Bop deity Bobby Timmons. Anderson?s alto is harsh and aggressive, like late Art Pepper, who never recorded Soul Jazz this hard.
«Soul Eyes». Stan Getz vehicle, among others. «Warmdaddy» might ought to be called «Hotdaddy». His ballad playing on this tune is more of a statement of fact as opposed to a wistful declaration. Jaz Sawyer caresses the tune with his brushes, taking the edge off of Anderson’s aggression.
«Snake Charmer». An Anderson original, with Anderson playing the sopranino saxophone. Opens with a cool Middle Eastern feel, transforming into a Latin carnival. Again, Sawyer’s drumming is outstanding.
«I’ll Remember April». Warmdaddy again smiles at Bird. A straight ahead reading, tapped off at a quick tempo and containing some of Anderson’s most inspired playing.
«Star-crossed Lovers». Warmdaddy is truly warm on this ballad. His tone is sweet and affectionate, without the edges of «Soul Eyes». However, he and the band do swing.
«Quick Skeem». Another Anderson original with Irvin Mayfield on trumpet. Spirited solos all the way around.
«Red Top». Anderson closes with a mid-tempo blues that highlights the swing of his working group.
The disc liner notes were provided by the ubiquitous Stanley Crouch, whose notes read like, well, a set of Stanley Crouch liner notes. They are informed and insightful, dissolved in his broad critical experience. This disc is a lot of fun. It is what you would expect from a live date at the mythic Vanguard in the late 20th Century. Recommended.