Clifton Anderson, Decade (CD review)

Clifton Anderson, Decade (Doxy)

anderson1Trombonist Clifton Anderson, for nearly 25 years the second-horn man to saxophone giant Sonny Rollins, indeed has grown as a player and improviser over the course of that long residency with his uncle.

For his first record as a leader since 1997, Anderson is joined on most tunes by longtime Rollins bassist Bob Cranshaw (on acoustic, rather than electric, for 5 of his 6 tracks), sometimes Rollins drummer Al Foster and pianist Larry Willis. He offers a warm bone sound and impressively fluent improvisations on a set of music — up-tempo swing, blues, standards “I’m Old Fashioned” and “We’ll Be Together Again,” rollicking calypso “Ah Soon Come” — that wouldn’t be out of place at his day job.

Particularly appealing is the tonal blend Anderson achieves with alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett on Anderson’s medium-swinging “Z” and briskly moving “Stubbs,” a tribute to late saxophonist John Stubblefield, who initially had been slated to play on the album.

Both of those tracks, along with a snappy remake of the Bread soft-rock hit “If,” benefit from the playing of a younger rhythm section — pianist Stephen Scott, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Steve Jordan. Eric Wyatt, on Rollins-esque tenor, makes a strong showing on Anderson’s “Aah Soon Come” and his blues “Deja-Blu.”

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Anderson plays dates in Arkansas, California and Texas through May 3, and heads to Europe this summer. For more information, check his site.

Best Jazz CDs of the Year?

It’s always one of a music critic’s toughest jobs.

How do you pick out the “best” recordings, of any genre, for any given year?

And, given the volume of CDs that continue to be unleashed, who – anywhere – has the time and wherewithal to listen to all the good, or even great, stuff that’s out there?

I never feel like I get it quite right – as soon as one of my year-ender pieces is published, I feel like I ought to go back and sub one of the discs for another that I’ve decided is more deserving.

At any rate, with the certainty that I’m leaving out one or two, or a dozen or more, great recordings, below is my “working” list of the year’s best jazz CDs.

This, of course, doesn’t include my favorites from other genres, a list that would include Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Lucinda Williams’ Little Honey, and the self-titled debut from The Steeldrivers.

An expanded version of my jazz list, with teensy descriptions of each disc, will soon be published elsewhere. When that happens, I’ll link to it.

The Best Jazz Discs of 2008 (in alphabetical order)

  • Brian Blade Fellowship, Season of Changes (Verve)
  • Anat Cohen, Notes From the Village (Anzic)
  • Chick Corea & Gary Burton, The New Crystal Silence (Concord)
  • John Ellis, Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow (Hyena)
  • Lionel Loueke, Karibu (Blue Note)metheny
  • Pat Metheny, Day Trip (Nonesuch)
  • Sonny Rollins, Road Shows, Vol. 1 (Doxy)
  • Esperanza Spalding, Esperanza (Heads Up)
  • Robert Walter, Cure All (Palmetto)
  • Cassandra Wilson, Loverly (Blue Note)