Reference: FSRCD 688
Entirely self-taught, unfazed by blindness and brittle bone disease, Chicagoborn Chris Anderson (1926-2008) remains a legendary figure among jazz pianists and an acknowledged influence on Herbie Hancock, who studied with him in 1960. Hancock was quick to spread the word among musicians. His teacher, he said, had "a whole other facet of tools of expression and harmonies that I hadnt heard in Bill Evans," adding that "Chris Anderson is a master of harmony and sensitivity."
The reverence in which he is held by jazz musicians was not reflected in anything remotely like wider acclaim, but Andersons few recordings are much sought-after gems among those in the know.
His first two trio albums, for VeeJay and Riverside/Jazzland, both of which are included here, were made in 1960 and 61 respectively. They show a very individual and provocative harmonic sense, as distinctive as Thelonious Monks or Bill Evanss, a light but firm and elegant swing, and a delicate balance of the cerebral and the emotional. It gave his music tremendous power to touch the heart and appeal to the intellect at the same time. His was a very special talent.
Charlie Haden, who made the superb "None But The Lonely Heart" with him for Naim in 1997, said at the time, a propos Anderson's brittle bone disease: "Chris is risking his life with every chord, that's how much it means to him. He has such reverence for beauty, he plays like an angel." That says it all.
"Chicago pianist Chris Anderson could truthfully be called a musicians musicians musican. In fact, even some of my most knowledgeable jazz afficiandos couldnt recall who he was. Completely blind by the age of 20, he was also tragically afflicted by brittle bone disease. He became resident house pianist at many of his home towns jazz clubs and backed every visitor from Bird to Brownie, Rollins and Getz. His admirers included locals like George Coleman, Clifford Jordan, Von Freeman and Harold Mabern and, in 1960, Herbie Hancock, by then a big star, who came to Anderson for lessons, calling him a master of harmony and sensitivity and saying Anderson had a whole other facet of tools of expression and harmonies that I hadnt heard in Bill Evans. Which is some statement!
Anderson has an orchestrating streak in his playing and often said hed rather listen to the work of arrangers like Gil Evans or Nelson Riddle than to other pianists. The two albums on this Fresh Sound CD are the VeeJay LP My Romance, which was only issued in Japan, even then only many years after it was recorded and the even better Orrin Keepnews-produced Jazzland Inverted Image, with Perkins finishing the sessions that Philly Joe couldnt. The standouts are probably the almost perfect ballad treatments of songs like Romance, A Fellow Needs a Girl, My Funny Valentine and I Hear a Rhapsody. A real legendary figure, Anderson passed away in 2008, aged 86. If you like what you hear, check out two more of Andersons albums in my collection a 1997 special duo with Charlie Haden (None But the Lonely Heart) and a 98 set with Billy Higgins, David Williams and European singer Sabina Sciubba (You Dont Know What Love Is), both on the British label, Naim."
Tony Hall -Jazzwise (August, 2012)
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