Jazz CD Reviews

Clifton Anderson – And So We Carry On – Daywood Drive

Trombonist Clifton Anderson brings hope and possibility to his upbeat jazz.

Published on October 21, 2012

Clifton Anderson – And So We Carry On – Daywood Drive

Clifton Anderson – And So We Carry On – Daywood Drive DDRLP1013, 63:58 ****:

(Clifton Anderson – trombone, producer; Kenny Garrett – soprano saxophone (track 1); Warren Wolf – vibraphone (tracks 1, 9); Donald Vega – piano (tracks 1-2, 5, 8-9); Essiet Okon Essiet – acoustic bass (tracks 1-2, 5, 8-9); Jeff “Tain” Watts – drums (tracks 1, 9); Kimati Dinizulu – percussion (tracks 1, 5-6); Wallace Roney – trumpet (tracks 2, 5); Steve Williams – drums (tracks 2, 5, 8); Eric Wyatt – tenor saxophone (tracks 3-4, 6, 9); Monty Alexander – piano (tracks 3-4, 6-7); Bob Cranshaw – acoustic bass (tracks 3-4, 6-7); Steve Jordan – drums (tracks 3-4, 6-7); Victor See Yuan – brake drum, hand percussion (track 6))

In these times of turmoil and strife, from international terrorism and cross-border warfare to malfunctioning marriages and lost jobs, there’s something to be said about one man’s positivistic perspective. On trombonist Clifton Anderson’s third album, And So We Carry On, Anderson sets out to bring a sense of hope and stress-relief to his hour-plus, nine-track collection of six originals, two Rodgers/Hart covers and an eminent Broadway/film tune about looking for brighter days ahead: an objective Anderson conveys in a promotional video that also contains excerpts from his new project. Anderson leads his working band (pianist Donald Vega, tenor saxophonist Eric Wyatt, bassist Essiet Okon Essiet and drummer Steve Williams) through post-bop cuts, up-tempo numbers, subtle ballad material and a Caribbean-inclined romp. Supporting the cheerful connotations are several guests, including pianist Monty Alexander, soprano saxophonist Kenny Garrett, trumpeter Wallace Roney and more: 14 artists in total are on the record.

Anderson may not be well known, but one of his relatives is: Anderson was a longtime member of his uncle Sonny Rollins’ band, which Anderson joined in 1983. After being a sideman who also worked with Lester Bowie, McCoy Tyner and others, Anderson finally took the reins and issued his debut, Landmarks, in 1996. While Anderson continues to be underrated and underappreciated, he is making a name for himself. Hopefully And So We Carry On will generate a larger fan base and attract more attention. Anderson commences with the engaging title track, captured in one take, which has sureness and confidence, and lends itself to multiple playbacks. Anderson’s trombone is warm and lively and is balanced smartly against Garrett’s supple soprano sax, while guest vibraphonist Warren Wolf imparts an underlying percussive patina, and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts furnishes drive, virtuosity and finesse. Watts initially was going to perform on only one track, but plans changed. He is also featured on the closer, the upbeat tribute “Mitsuru,” which honors Japanese club owner, bassist, educator and renowned raconteur Mitsuru Nishiyama. Wolf supplies some dazzling vibes work, Anderson and Wyatt double the horn sound and also trade lines, and Vega contributes some scintillating keyboard runs.

Anderson delivers another tribute with the melodic “Niokim,” a gift to his wife, one of four pieces Alexander partakes in. The 4/4 tempo keeps a constant swing; and with lots of trombone solo space, listeners get ample opportunity to hear Anderson’s JJ Johnson-like playing. Alexander’s improvisation is also a highlight, where he sustains a lyrical quality while managing a rhythmic conversation with bassist Bob Cranshaw (another Rollins alum) and Anderson’s high school friend, drummer Steve Jordan. Motherhood is a special gift as well, and Anderson shows his love for his mother on the endearing lengthy ballad, “Alexer Is,” where Roney takes an elegant stroll through the harmonious main theme, and showcases why he is considered such a discerning redolent player on ballads. Typical of Roney’s tone, there are hints of avowed idol Miles Davis, but not as much as some might assume. Two other memorable Anderson compositions include the calypso-clipped “Bacalou Tonight” and the traditional-meets-modern piece “Remember This.” The Caribbean-hued “Bacalou Tonight” (the title is inspired by a frightful voodoo spirit represented by a skull and crossbones) again involves Alexander, who escalates his own West Indies heritage (Alexander was born and raised in Jamaica). The buoyant number evokes the good-time party mood of Mighty Sparrow, who was a huge 1950s calypso music star. Alexander and Anderson both provide panache, while the rhythmic intensity is bolstered by Kimati Dinizulu (congas) and Victor See Yuen (brake drum and hand percussion). “Remember This” opens with an unaccompanied Anderson, who uses a cup mute, which he utilizes throughout and which confers an old-style character to what is otherwise a contemporary, creative and ultimately very optimistic cut.

The key to impressive interpretation is producing something fresh, not just mere replication of what has come before. Anderson certainly makes that idea a reality during his 10-minute redo of the perennially affirmative “Tomorrow,” from the hit musical and popular movie Annie. Alexander, Cranshaw and Jordan are in perfect sync while Anderson and Wyatt solo and play in tandem. Anderson’s soulful arrangement upholds the famous theme but nourishes improvisation, which means the tune has plenty of room for jazz intonations and inventive verve. Anderson lets the charms of Rodgers and Hart shine on two prominent pieces which have become standards. “Where or When” (from the musical Babes in Arms) has previously been recorded by everyone from Count Basie to Stan Getz. Roney replaces Wyatt, and Anderson and his band give listeners a fast-paced, bop-propelled run through this familiar piece.

The group reduces the velocity only a smidgeon on a similarly-striding reading of “Falling in Love with Love,” from the musical The Boys from Syracuse. Anderson puts his trombone firmly in the limelight, while Alexander, Cranshaw and Jordan hold down the backbeat and rhythm; Alexander is also spotlighted with a bouncy solo. No one lets things slow down: everyone preserves an urgent gait, a footrace to romance. The only quibble is the fadeout at the finish: a more raucous conclusion might have been the ideal ending. All during And So We Carry On Clifton Anderson reveals his musicality, his flowing and adaptable tone, his self-evident compatibility with fellow musicians and, most importantly, a shimmering mannerism which can inspire and cause a smile. There may be no antidote to some of the hurt and pain which encompasses both the world at large and on an individual level, but with undertakings such as And So We Carry On there is at least a perception of possibility, of better things to come.

TrackList: And So We Carry On; Where or When; Niokim; Tomorrow; Alexer Is; Bacalou Tonight; Falling in Love with Love; Remember This; Mitsuru.

—Doug Simpson





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