Wessell Anderson: African Cowboy
Wessell Anderson (alto saxophone)
Live at the Village Vanguard (Leaning House BB-008)
Composed by Wessell Anderson.
Recorded: live at the Village Vanguard, New York City, May 30, 1998
Rating: 97/100 (learn more)
Anderson was a key member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet in the late '80s and early '90s, and he then played an integral role in Marsalis' Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra for about 10 years. His noteworthy Live at the Village Vanguard CD, his last in the '90's, should have led to many more this decade, but was only followed by new ones as a leader in 2006 (Space) and 2009 (Warm it up, Warmdaddy!). Although he studied with Alvin Batiste in Louisiana, and his fat, vocalized sound and Marsalis association might lead you to believe he's from the trumpeter's home state, Anderson was actually born and raised in New York City.
The track "African Cowboy" shows the uninitiated exactly what Anderson is all about, and why he's called "Warmdaddy." A cowpoke/square dance introductory refrain is played by pianist Xavier Davis, with Jaz Sawyer's sympathetic galloping rhythm. The train-whistle-derived theme is handled almost tongue-in-cheek by Anderson's alto and New Orleanian Irwin Mayfield's wah-wah trumpet. Anderson's solo is typically linear, inventively and tirelessly rearranging and altering the melodic content with an irresistible urgency. His clever riffs and variety of wailing tonal inflections make for a heady mix, and his tumbling, headlong runs only add to the excitement. Think Cannonball Adderley at his most inspired and playful, with an extra dose of near-maniacal glee. The concluding tag by the two horns, after they revisit the theme, is joyfully appropriate and crowd-pleasing.
Reviewer: Scott Albin