Live at the Village Vanguard
Besides his physical similarity to Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, Wess Anderson plays the alto saxophone with rapture and ardor, and a sense of breaking the blues down to street level that makes his a crowd-pleasing presence on any bandstand. Which is why his first recording for the Dallas-based indy label Leaning House was appropriately recorded at the Vanguard. Anderson is on record preferring live recordings, gladly swapping the ultra-control of the studio for the immediacy of the bandstand any day. And he does so with great eagerness on this rewarding disc, even dropping a little Adderley science along the way, in the guise of "Dis Here."
The opening Anderson original, "African Cowboy," is the sort of urban hoedown that Charles Mingus and Oliver Nelson found homes in, yet just as you adjust your ears to jazz on the Pecos, Wess and company ride off into some hard-core hard boppin'. The sweet spot in Anderson's alto tone is writ bold on his grand essay of Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes." And his "Now's the Time" offers appropriate homage to Bird with its rambunctious swing. Anderson's mates include bassist Steve Kirby, drummer Jaz Sawyer, pianist Xavier Davis, and on four of the nine tracks the latest New Orleans trumpet flash, Irvin Mayfield. "African Cowboy" joins "Star-Crossed Lovers," and "Snake Charmer" as the three Anderson originals. The latter finds Wessell putting an absolute whuppin' on that cobra, riding a mean habanera on soprano sax.