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Interviews

Chuck Anderson: Guitar Reemergence

By Published: April 20, 2010
Chuck Anderson's guitar artistry is a cut above the jazz standard. The quality of his execution is so fine that on first hearing, it is literally stunning. His recent CD, Freefall (Dreambox Media, 2010) consists of musical gems—all-original compositions, woven into a tapestry worthy of a master classical guitarist. Yet it is all straight-ahead mainstream jazz played on a Gibson L5 electric guitar in a trio setting.

The question arises as to why he is not better known within the lineage of jazz guitarists that includes Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery
Wes Montgomery
1925 - 1968
guitar
, Herb Ellis
Herb Ellis
Herb Ellis
1921 - 2010
guitar
, Jimmy Bruno
Jimmy Bruno
Jimmy Bruno
b.1953
guitar
, and Pat Martino
Pat Martino
Pat Martino
b.1944
guitar
. among others. One reason may be his exceptionally high standards, so that his recording and live appearances have been especially selective over the years.

The other reason, which emerged in this interview, was a period of two decades where he gave up performing due to the theft of his treasured Gibson guitar and a bout with obstructive sleep apnea that interfered with his daily functioning. Having received a replica of his original instrument constructed by guitar maker Eric Schulte, and having been successfully diagnosed and treated for his sleep disorder, Anderson has reemerged into the performance limelight and is engaged in a series of live performances and recording dates that are attracting the attention of critics and jazz lovers. In addition, for over four decades, he has been composing and teaching prolifically, even during the time he stopped performing, and he now has a very active guitar website as well.

All About Jazz: For a warm-up, we'll use the infamous desert island question. Which recordings would you take to that desert island?

Chuck Anderson: Well, the first one would have to be something by pianist Bill Evans

Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
, who is probably my all time favorite jazz musician. Beyond that, most of the Wes Montgomery recordings, particularly The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery (Riverside, 1960) and Boss Guitar (Riverside, 1963). And then, going in a completely different direction, recordings of Ravel and Debussy, Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, and Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings.

AAJ: We know that Stravinsky, Ravel, and Debussy had a major influence on modern jazz.

CA: Exactly. I would have to say that modern jazz is primarily an amalgam of American blues crossed over with French impressionist music of the 20th Century.



Chapter Index

  1. An Unexpected Teen-Age Encounter with the Guitar
  2. Studying with Jazz Legend Dennis Sandole
  3. Coming Up in the Music Business
  4. Career Disruptions
  5. Anderson's Composing and Guitar Approach
  6. Looking Around, Inward, and Onward >


An Unexpected Teen-Age Encounter with the Guitar

AAJ: Give us a history of your early life experiences, especially your first exposures to music and jazz.

CA: The truth is that as a youngster, I had no interest in music. I was an athlete, a basketball player, and everyone thought I would turn out to be an NBA player because I was six feet tall before I was twelve years old. However, from that point on, I stopped growing completely, so the NBA was no longer an option.

My introduction to music was purely coincidental. I lived in Radnor, PA, and up to age 14, had zero involvement in music. But at age 14, a neighbor invited my family over to a summer holiday picnic and a very avid, keenly interested amateur guitarist was there playing his new guitar. I went over to get a hamburger, and when he saw me, for some reason he said, "Are you interested in guitar?" I said, "No." And he said, "I just got this new guitar, but my old guitar is up in the attic. Why don't I go upstairs and get it and you can take it home and try it." I wanted to decline, but my mother said that it would be "rude and impolite" to turn down this generous offer, So I reluctantly took the guitar home, put it under my bed and forgot about it.

Then one day, I turned my ankle playing basketball. Since I had to wait for the swelling to go down, had nothing to do and was bored, I got the guitar out from under the bed. I looked at a note the neighbor had written and strummed one E minor chord. I thought it was the greatest thing I ever heard and from that point on, my basketball career went straight down the tubes, and my music career went straight up.

AAJ: That's an incredible story. Pure chance, but you immediately were hooked.

CA: Yes, and I've never known whether my musical career would ever have happened without that picnic or that guy, or turning my ankle. It created all kinds of havoc on my high school basketball team when I quit the team during my junior year. Sports became only a couch activity, and from that point on I was totally devoted to music. One chord, and that was it. I started practicing like a maniac.

AAJ: Weren't there any musical influences in your home as a kid? Most musicians I've interviewed were exposed to music at a very young age.

CA: No, there weren't any, certainly no active music playing in the household. None of my siblings played, and neither parent did, although many years before then, my dad had been a clarinetist. He had gone to the same school as Gene Krupa

Gene Krupa
Gene Krupa
1909 - 1973
drums
and all the big band guys in Chicago at Austin High. My father was a big band nut, and he idolized Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
1909 - 1986
clarinet
. So every now and then, I would hear some Benny Goodman records but that doesn't explain my fascination with the guitar.

AAJ: When you first started playing, were you self-taught or did you get a teacher?

CA: I got a teacher immediately after I played that first chord. Within a week, I asked for lessons, and my parents had me all signed up.

AAJ: Do you recall the name of the teacher?

CA: His name was Al Colucci.

AAJ: Was the focus on jazz, classical, or both?

CA: At that time, the guitar was not the popular instrument that it is now. The most common instruments in the music stores then were the trumpet and accordion. Guitar was pretty much brand new. Colucci was an old school, traditional guitarist. So the lessons were mostly on learning to read music. It wasn't focused to the point where it had a specialization like blues, rock 'n roll or jazz. I remember primarily doing Mel Bay method books. I don't think they've changed since the day I started.

AAJ: Well, Vic Juris

Vic Juris
Vic Juris
b.1953
guitar
has done some specialized jazz books for Mel Bay recently.

CA: Yes. Bill Bay, the son of Mel, is now the head honcho there. They have a record label, I believe, and some of the jazz players are writing books for them as well. I've had offers to write for companies like Mel Bay, but I could never negotiate the royalty rates I wanted. So eventually, I formed my own publishing company. So getting back to Al Colucci, I studied with him from age 14-16, and then he sent me to Dennis Sandole, who, of course, was the guru teacher of John Coltrane

John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
, Pat Martino and others. When I went for my audition with Sandole, it was painfully obvious that I wasn't ready to start with him, and he sent me to one of his students, Joe Federico. I studied with Joe from ages 16-19. There were two premiere jazz guitar teachers in Philadelphia. One was Joe Sgro, and the other was Dennis Sandole. Strangely enough, I got to Sandole because I couldn't spell Sgro to look him up in the phone book.

AAJ: A lot of your life has been determined by chance events.

CA: That's probably true. Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point, argues that many events of our lives are determined by serendipitous events.

Studying with Jazz Legend Dennis Sandole

AAJ: Many of the best musicians studied with Dennis Sandole, yet relatively little has been written about him. Tell us a bit more about him. What kind of person and teacher was he? What was the special gift he gave to the players?

Chuck Anderson Trio, from left: Eric Schreiber, Ed Rick, Chuck Anderson



CA: First of all, it's important to realize that he was not a guitar teacher per se>. He was a guitarist, but had stopped playing by the time he was teaching in Philadelphia. The story is that he was a staff guitarist in Hollywood for one of the film orchestras, probably MGM. It's been said that he played for Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
vocalist
in Harlem when he was younger.

I was with Dennis from the time I was 19 until I was 28, from around 1966 into the middle 1970s. At the time, he was the most famous jazz teacher in the world, a legend. Of course, he mentored John Coltrane and Pat Martino. Rufus Harley came in—he went on to famously play jazz bagpipes. There was a recent documentary film about him. I actually think it was Dennis who got him to play bagpipes. George Benson

George Benson
George Benson
b.1943
guitar
was there, and we had some conversations. Joe Lano who became one of the most famous jazz guitarists of Las Vegas, also studied during that same time period. James Moody
James Moody
James Moody
1925 - 2010
reeds
was a Sandole student. There were many great musicians who studied with him.



Sandole's contribution was not so much as a guitarist, but as someone who had developed a very elaborate, deep musical educational literature that he then taught to the students independent of their instrument. It was based on the study of aesthetics, the art of music, the study of improvisation, and composition.

AAJ: Could you state in brief what you learned from Sandole?

CA: There was a great deal of controversy about the way that he taught. But what I got from him was a love for and appreciation of the art of jazz and to view music not as a commercial form but as an artistic form. Sandole was very much opposed to commerciality, and sometimes if a student made money playing commercial music, it almost seemed to be a problem. He was somewhat phobic about it. For instance, you couldn't actually hand him cash or a check. He wouldn't touch it. You would have to put it under a ceramic cat which was on the piano! For me, at a young age, he instilled an impression in me that money was bad, which did create problems for me.



When I was 21, I became the staff guitarist at the Latin Casino [a popular nightclub in Cherry Hill, NJ from about 1960-1978], playing with many show business legends while I was still studying with Sandole. When I was hired, I went to him and said excitedly, "Dennis, I got the staff job at the Latin Casino!" He said absolutely nothing, and I said it again. Then he said, "What are you doing wasting your time on worthless commercial soirees? You should be playing concerts for the kings and queens of Europe, not prostituting yourself playing for entertainers!" And I said, "Oh" [Laughter]. See, I was already married, with a son and a house. I had to pay for those things and I had to make money, but Dennis didn't like that I chose that path. Later, I did understand his attitude, but it's created a lot of psychological problems for me throughout the years. I've always had to battle the apparent contradiction between making money versus pursuing music as a pure art form.

AAJ: That's an ongoing concern for many of the most talented musicians. I'm thinking that Bernard Peiffer, the French jazz pianist who relocated to Philadelphia and taught some of the best jazz pianists, was like that too, locking horns with the record companies, etc.

Coming Up in the Music Business

CA: Al Stauffer was my bassist for years—he's on my Vintage Tracks (Self Produced, 2005) recording. He was also Bernard's bassist. It's odd how things intersect. Bernard, Jimmy Paxton, Al Stauffer and I were discussing doing a concert at the Walnut Street Theater. Stauffer and Paxton were in my group and in Peiffer's group. The irony is that Bernard died before the concert could take place. It's fascinating how we're making these connections—it's taking me way back.

AAJ: That's a good thing, because the oral history is important. By the way, who were some of the guys in the house band at the Latin Casino?

CA: I only recall the names of a couple of them. The individual players were good readers who played charts as opposed to jazz players as such. I remember that Lou Krauss was the director of the band. Al DelGovernatore was the pianist, and interestingly had the distinction of playing piano on one of Dennis Sandole's few albums. He and Dennis were close friends.

AAJ: Who were some of the great acts that you played behind?

CA: I was with Billy Eckstine

Billy Eckstine
Billy Eckstine
1914 - 1993
vocalist
, Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee
1920 - 2002
vocalist
, Bobby Darin, Michel Legrand
Michel Legrand
Michel Legrand
b.1932
piano
. I did fourteen shows a week for four years. There were also the great comedians, the dancers, and so on... Ann Margaret, Rita Moreno, Joey Heatherton, Susan Anton, Raquel Welch, Suzanne Somers among many others. Then there were some people like Patti Page, Al Martino, and others who made their reputation in the 1950s.

AAJ: The first four you mentioned had a substantial impact on jazz.

CA: That's why they came right to my mind. There were many, many pop stars of the day, like Trini Lopez and Freda Payne, who performed at the Latin Casino. The ones I loved playing behind the most were jazz singers, like Eckstine. Another place I played with many celebrities was at the Valley Forge Music Fair. There I worked with Anthony Newley, Nancy Wilson

Nancy Wilson
Nancy Wilson
b.1937
vocalist
, and others.

Career Disruptions

AAJ: Now at some point you encountered two difficult crises in your life: the theft of your specially-crafted guitar, and your extended bout with obstructive sleep apnea that left you unable to perform. What transpired from the time you left the Latin Casino through those episodes, to your recent performance comeback?



CA: After the Latin Casino, I formed the Chuck Anderson Trio. I got tired of playing shows. I hired Al Stauffer on bass and Jimmy Paxton on drums, who was later replaced by Ray Deeley. We played mostly my originals and did concerts and recordings for four years. That group was on my CD, The Vintage Tracks. And after that, the music business shifted around, and I got the staff guitar job at the Valley Forge Music Fair. I played there for seven seasons. During that period, I founded what came to be known as the neo-classical guitar style. That style featured the solo guitar, but instead of the Segovia approach of acoustic finger-picked guitar, I took a jazz guitar with an amplifier and a pick, and created a unique repertoire for it. My Kaleidophon (Self Produced, 1999) CD represents the neo-classical style. There are two other CDs that have not been released, one called Timeless, and the other Virtuosity. They're sitting in the vault, mastered but have never been released. I carried on the neo-classical work for seven or eight years.



It was toward the twilight of that period that I was giving a concert and signing autographs, when someone got behind the stage and stole my guitar. For me, that was absolutely crushing. I had played that guitar every day from the time I studied with Sandole, through the Latin Casino years. Thousands of hours of practice had all gone into that instrument. I was devastated and unable to play. I tried to buy two other Gibson L-5 guitars but sold them after a few days. I was so disheartened, I really couldn't play.



However, I was always big time into education, and the education work never stopped. I've taught virtually every day for the last forty-five years. For example, yesterday, I taught continuously from 8am to midnight. I've written many books, have conducted master classes, and so on, so the teaching was a constant during this period.

AAJ: Your reaction to the loss of your guitar was quite different from what Pat Martino once said, that for him the guitar itself is only a tool. Yet I do believe that many guitarists feel a very strong closeness to the instrument: it becomes a part of them. You must have felt that way about your guitar.

CA: Yes, I did. I would have chosen to lose a leg rather than that guitar. It was an absolute extension of me. I've known Pat for many years, and he actually views the guitar as a toy. We talked about it recently. For him, the theft of a guitar would not have been so devastating. But for me, perhaps because of the enthusiasm with which I pursued it, it had become an absolute extension of myself.

AAJ: And during this rough period, in the 1980s, you also had the sleep apnea problem?

CA: I had a severe case of obstructive sleep apnea for over twenty years, but early on, nobody recognized what it was. I attributed feeling tired to my long hours of work, so it didn't seem remarkable to me that I was so tired. But it was getting worse and worse and it zapped the oxygen level in my blood. When they started testing me, it turned out that I had the most severe case of sleep apnea in medical history. The tests showed that I woke up 104 times per hour and that my breathing stopped 108 times every hour. It doesn't get much worse than that. It's called "the double one hundred club." This condition also turned my metabolism off and I gained 110 pounds. I could've played tackle for the Eagles. I had absolutely no energy as the result. So, once it was properly diagnosed, I began to get a grip on that whole set of problems I just described. Exercise, my wife, my doctor and diet certainly played a major role in my recovery.

AAJ: Did you use the C-PAP breathing device for the sleep apnea?

CA: Yes, I still do. It's a Bi-Pap machine. It worked for me. That doesn't mean it works for everybody, but it's phenomenal for me. And with the energy that came back to me, I felt exactly as I did when I was 24. With all the energy that returned, I decided to go back and fulfill what Sandole felt was my potential. So I started to rebuild my career. And I find it funny now at my advanced age that people now call me an "emerging artist" [laughter]. I don't feel like that, but I know what they mean. I spent last Friday at Jimmy Bruno's house, and he said, "Hey, they call me Old School!" So I said, "What are you complaining about? They call me an 'Emerging Artist'! Between the two of us, we could get one good modern jazz guitarist."



So my recovery led to all my recent compositions, my new CD Freefall and now I'm back into a heavy concert schedule. I'm an absolute maniac again. And I lost all the excess weight I had gained.

AAJ: Fantastic; what a story. And in addition, someone built a guitar for you to recreate the one that was stolen.

CA: Eric Schulte, who is one of the great luthiers [string instrument maker] in the world, had taken care of my original L5 from the beginning. One day after many years, I was over at his place, and he said, "Why don't you do concerts anymore?" I explained that my guitar was stolen, and he said, "Look, if you'll agree to go back and do concerts, I'll re-create your Gibson L5. I'll make you the guitar you lost." So he did. And that's the guitar we now call the "Green Hornet," the guitar you see on my videos. And because of that, I dedicated the Angel Blue (Self Produced, 2003) CD to him.

AAJ: Does he work for Gibson?

CA: He was a Gibson-authorized repair guy. He started with a Gibson instrument and then custom adapted all the little quirky things that were in my original guitar. He was more familiar with my guitar than anyone. And as a result of his efforts, I'm back to the jazz world, doing concerts and master classes, as driven as I was at age 24 [laughter].

AAJ: Schulte must have admired your guitar playing to do that work for you.

CA: He always said I was the greatest jazz guitarist in the world and his favorite. It was very sweet of him to say that.

Anderson's Composing and Guitar Approach

AAJ: Let's talk about the music itself. When I reviewed Freefall, I was struck by your attention to the smallest details, even the embellishments and glissandos are done perfectly, whereas many jazz guitarists, even the best, are careless about them. I never heard jazz guitar played quite so artistically before. You must have a remarkable ability to listen in the moment. What led you to such dedication to technique and artistry? Jazz players often take short cuts and cheat on a lot of things, sometimes for good reason, but you don't. You play as precisely as the best classical guitarists, without losing the jazz feel. You've achieved real finesse and beauty in your playing. What led you to that purpose, and do you have any suggestions for other musicians who seek that degree of accuracy in their playing?

CA: I never talk about this, but one of my passions was to develop guitar to the point that Nicolo Paganini had taken the violin. Students are always surprised when they come to my studio and see nothing but pictures of violins on my wall. There aren't any pictures of guitars in my studio. Students have often asked about the missing guitar pictures. The answer is that I was a great devotee of Paganini. The virtuosity and the thousands of hours of practice that the classical virtuosos put in was something that I felt the modern jazz guitar had not accomplished. That was partly why I did the neo-classical thing, and I brought that detail back to jazz when I left the neo style to return to jazz. So the Italian school of violin virtuosity, with its attention to detail, became my model, rather than looking at say, Charlie Christian

Charlie Christian
Charlie Christian
1916 - 1942
guitar, electric
as a role model. That probably affected my attention to detail.

AAJ: It's unusual—though not unheard of—for a jazz musician to use another instrument as his or her role model.

CA: Bob Miles, the host of the television show Miles of Music, has called me "the most distinctive voice of the jazz guitar." He said that he can recognize my sound after two or three notes. I did two of his TV shows a couple of weeks ago, and Bob wanted to know what it was about my guitar playing that was unique. There are some people who've developed a unique voice and others who have followed voices. I've never followed a voice; I've always played with my own voice. By that I mean that I never sat down to work out any guitarist's signature phrases. I never transcribed other jazz guitar solos.

AAJ: And yet you can hear echoes of some of the great guitarists in your playing.

CA: Wes Montgomery was very kind to me when I was sixteen. He was my biggest influence on jazz guitar, even though we play very differently. His passion and fire was one of my greatest influences. And then, there was Johnny Smith

Johnny Smith
Johnny Smith
1922 - 2013
guitar
, one of the first "pick" guitarists to use the "Sandole" technique. Some people pick from the wrist, some from the thumb, and some from the elbow. Johnny Smith was the first famous jazz guitarist to pick from the elbow. That style was developed by Sandole.

AAJ: So do you play from the elbow?

CA: Yes.

AAJ: The late Charlie Byrd

Charlie Byrd
Charlie Byrd
1925 - 1999
guitar
, who of course played acoustic guitar, occasionally played classical music such as Bach directly from the original music notation. I heard him do that at a small club in Philadelphia. Do you yourself ever play classical pieces as composed, but on the electric guitar? And if so, how do classical purists feel about that?

CA: Yes, I do. The Bach pieces that I've recorded are original notation. Classical purists were split. Some thought it was innovative. Others thought it was blasphemous. My recording Kaleidophon consisted of three sections. One was a group of classical pieces that I transcribed, for example, excerpts from the Bach Cello Suites. They are note-for-note. This is the same way that Paganini developed his repertoire. He would do transcriptions of a composer like Beethoven, he would do original writing, and he would do improvisations. So, in addition to transcriptions, I would take international folk songs and improvise on them, as well as my original compositions like "Kaleidophon," "Themes from a Shattered Moonbow" and "Passages from the End of Autumn." It's interesting that classical music lost two-thirds of its repertoire in this respect. That is, the performing musicians themselves stopped improvising and stopped composing. So Segovia, for example, never improvised or composed. He transcribed the work of other composers for the guitar. He also commissioned many works for the classical guitar.

AAJ: That's very interesting. In a sense, jazz filled that gap in classical music when those performers stopped improvising and composing. A propos of that, many are asking where jazz is going today, what its future will be. You have a unique way of blending classical, jazz, and folk music into your repertoire. Today, crossover music between classical and jazz is attracting interest, and beyond that, we have, for example, Uri Caine

Uri Caine
Uri Caine
b.1956
piano
going out on all sorts of limbs. Then, by contrast, there are those who don't like anything new. Do you think that the word jazz means anything specific anymore? `

CA: Yes, I do. Let me compare music to language. You have languages, like Spanish, and then you have dialects of Spanish, like Catalan. If you take jazz, rock, blues, classical, and so on as languages, then inside of each of those, you have the dialects. So Dixieland, bebop, avant-garde, and so on, are dialects of jazz. But when I play jazz, it's jazz to me. There's nothing on my Kaleidophon CD that would have fit on any of my jazz CDs. That recording was not created in the jazz idiom. So I do have a strong personal sense of what jazz is to me.



One of the things people who shy away from jazz don't like is the dissonant, jangled sound that radio stations often play and call jazz. But that's really only true of some of the music, for example, the avant-garde side of jazz, like AAlbert Ayler

Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
1936 - 1970
sax, tenor
. Jazz itself is defined by certain harmonic characteristics, chord progressions, scalar and melodic characteristics, and the feature of thematic statement followed by improvisational development, reiteration of the theme, and conclusion. It's monophonic, not polyphonic. As far as the themes are concerned. There's still primarily a single melody on top of a single harmony.



I wrote a blog about "What is jazz guitar" in response to a reader's question on my website, and I started out by saying what is not characteristic of jazz guitar. I made this whole list, including distortion, high volume, solid body guitars, simplistic chord progressions—they're part of heavy metal guitar and other forms, but they're not part of the jazz guitar. Moreover, for me, guitar is a super-language and jazz is a sub-language of that. I believe the guitar is one of the strongest elements to bring the world to jazz.



I have a column called "The Art and Science of Jazz" on the AAJ website. People come to me and say, "Is what you play jazz?" And I say, "Why do you ask?" And they say, "Well, we hate jazz, but we love what you play." That tells me that jazz has not been presented to the world in the best light. One of my dedications has been to bring the jazz guitar to the world internationally.

AAJ: In my opinion, Freefall is great jazz. Even though it is unique, it is squarely in the mainstream.

CA: To me, It's absolutely jazz.

AAJ: And I was struck by the quality and listenability of your compositions—all your originals—in Freefall. And even though they're beautiful melodies that could even be set to words, I heard them as if written for guitar specifically. What are you intending to achieve in your composing? Also, do you ever consider writing in more extended forms, such as the suites of Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
, Gunther Schuller
Gunther Schuller
Gunther Schuller
b.1925
composer/conductor
, and others?

CA: It's funny you should mention that, because during that period of twenty years when I didn't perform, I made my living as a composer. I compose more than most jazz guitarists. I've written orchestral works and string quartets. I wrote for many corporate clients. I've written jingles and TV themes but also some documentary scores. In addition, I composed albums on specialized topics, like The International Collection, where I took twelve different countries and wrote or arranged music representative of each country. Some were huge 100-track recordings. I think that the period devoted to composing made a big difference for me, musically speaking. Now I'm trying to take the diversity of everything I've done and bring it back to two fields: music education and the jazz guitar.



I actually spent seven years studying classical composition and orchestration with Dr. Harold Boatrite of Philadelphia. I think most of the jazz guitarists have not been composers. Wes Montgomery wrote some cute tunes, but he wasn't a composer per se. Three days ago, I wrote a string trio. But now, I'm focused primarily on my website, www.ChuckAndersonJazzGuitar.com, which has a growing fan base for my jazz performance, education and composition. We have even developed a new concept called the "Jazz Guitar Club." Eric Hebert of Evolvor.com is responsible for all of these new developments.

AAJ: In your music, you come across as very disciplined and individualistic. So, do you ever just hang out with other musicians, or get involved in spontaneous jam sessions?

CA: No! I've never participated in a jam session in my life.

AAJ: And you don't work as a sideman at all?

CA: I do not work as a sideman at all.

AAJ: So it's obvious that you have artistic and creative strivings well beyond being a good player. The term "player" itself is a somewhat questionable term for jazz musicians in any case.

CA: Right!

AAJ: How do you envision the creative process, and do you have an aesthetic, a concept you mentioned earlier in connection with Sandole?

CA: That's a deep question. I view what I do as trying to express the totality of myself and the human condition. I'm not into words in my music. I'm a great devotee of instrumental music. So I don't go in the pop song direction. I'm basically trying to elevate the status of the jazz guitar to an international art form. Rather than view jazz as the art form and the guitar as one of the instruments, one of my platforms is to regard jazz guitar as the form. I work to develop the ability to express art and aesthetics through the instrument.

AAJ: In the Freefall album, you've got Ed Rick and Eric Schreiber with you, and it struck me how well they complement your playing, so that at times you guys sound almost like one instrument. Tell us a bit about them, and what brought the three of you together?

CA: They aren't as well known as my past sidemen, but I wanted to develop a group that I could mold in the direction that I was going. Eric Schreiber is a bassist who was a student of mine for many years. He became a virtuosic player, but circumstances like a family prevented him from a full time music career. Ed Rick was the drummer in one of my wife's bands. My wife, Coreen Anderson, is a brilliant singer, and I always liked Ed's energy, agreeableness, and flexibility. He didn't have a lot of experience as a jazz drummer per se. But through the trio's hard work, we were able to capture what I was looking for, and that's what you hear on the CD Freefall.

Looking Around, Inward, and Onward

AAJ: So, finally, I'd like to know something about your life outside of your musical work.



CA: Well, first of all I never listen to music [laughter]. I listen to sports talk radio in my car. I have no discernible hobbies. I spend as much time with my wife as I can. We're in our twenty-first year of marriage, and we spend a lot of time together. My children, Chris, Nicole, and Silke are grown and gone. They're all married. I do a lot of physical training now to put myself back in shape. I was into karate, and I'm trying to get myself in shape to continue with that.

AAJ: You're not the type one would want to mess with [laughter].

CA: Probably not. I still have a good kick.

AAJ: A question I frequently ask is based on Coltrane's famous statement that music is his spirituality. He was a true seeker, following his own path. So, what is your philosophy of life, and does it have a religious or spiritual focus?

CA: I would go along with Coltrane and say that music is my religion, my politic, and my philosophy. I don't have a strong outer religious life in the sense of attending services, and so on, but I certainly have a strong meditative life, probably tending towards a Buddhist perspective. In life, I think I'm doing what everybody is doing, trying to synthesize and integrate what is important to them personally with what they need to do in life in order to survive. I'm deeply involved in helping people. I've been teaching for forty-five years, and I not only help people with their careers but also try to help them straighten out their own philosophy and direction. So my personal philosophy is to try to help everyone I can, pursuing the work that I love to do, and focus on the creativity, while finding a way to market that creativity so it can also be a career and a profession.

AAJ: So what are your career goals and directions over the next period of time?

CA: Working with the trio with Eric and Ed. Trying to find an agent to handle bookings. Jimmy Bruno and I are working on a new CD together where we co-write the tunes. Maybe we'll do some live concerts at the World Café Live. Eric Hebert wants to make "Chuck Anderson Jazz Guitar" a brand name recognized all over the world. Before he's done, he's gonna have t-shirts, picks and baseball caps with my name on them [laughter].



As I mentioned earlier, we've started "Chuck's Jazz Guitar Club," an exclusive membership club that allows people digital access to all kinds of stuff. I want to develop a following in Japan, Europe, China, and India, bringing the American jazz guitar to an international audience.


Selected Discography

Chuck Anderson, Freefall (Dreambox Media, 2010)

Chuck Anderson, Vintage Tracks (Self Produced, 2005)

Chuck Anderson Trio, Angel Blue: A Tour of Jazz (Self Produced, 2003)

Chuck Anderson, Kaleidophon (Self Produced, 1999)

Photo Credits

Pages 1-3: Linda Braceland

Page 5: Courtesy of Chuck Anderson



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