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After a dozen years playing in his uncle's band, 40-year-old trombonist Clifton Anderson steps out of the Sonny Rollins group for Landmarks , his Milestone debut. This is a nice, polished mainstream set which mixes some bop and ballads with a couple standards and (surprise, surprise) a fun calypso. Anderson has an all-star lineup, with Monty Alexander, who's excellent on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass, Al Foster on drums and solid guest spots for Wallace Roney on trumpet ("Princess Neh Neh"), Victor See Yuen's percussion ("I Thought It Was Understood") and Kenny Garrett on alto ("Mommy"). If the presence of Roney, Garrett and Foster suggest a Miles Davis kind of thing, then we're clearly talking about the trumpet legend's Prestige dates from the mid-1950s (one of which even featured Rollins).
Anderson is an accomplished player who has the warm, swinging and flexible burnish of that other famous '50s bopper, Curtis Fuller. He's even willing to flirt with his own individuality occasionally, as he does in the beautiful and appropriately romantic "My One And Only Love," where he makes his trombone sound like a purring French horn.
He's also a writer of exceptionally well-crafted bop. "P. C. (From Whom All Blessings Flow)," "Mommy," "Landmarks Along the Way" and "Thanks" are all memorable, solid bop pieces that deserve additional interpretations elsewhere. Even on the slower songs, this group swings with earnest. It's not nearly as studied or reverential as is so much of what today's neo-bop young lions keep churning out. There are some genuinely nice musical moments throughout Landmarks that make it worthy of repeated listens. There's nothing groundbreaking about Landmarks. But it's highly recommended for lovers of trad-bop (the kind Prestige and Savoy made in the 1950s) and Sonny Rollins listeners familiar with Clifton Anderson's capabilities. A fine and promising debut.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.