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The Village Vanguard April 15-20, 1997 New York City
"Wess Anderson's playing contains the essence of soul, that's why we call him "WarmDaddy." This comment, spoken by Anderson's part-time employer and musical foil Wynton Marsalis, was backed up by WarmDaddy's performances in and around NYC this past month. Fronting a group featuring the fabulous Stephan Harris on vibes, altoist Anderson played out of a mostly original book, largely drawn from his superb new disc, The Ways of Warmdaddy, with a nice sprinkling of standards thrown in. Whether playing a WarmDaddy-penned number or a work by Monk, Anderson was able to maintain his highly unique, bluesey, soul influenced style of playing and writing. A number of the tunes featured the young Harris displayed not only impressive techical ability but more importantly a tasteful, restrained approach that belies his youth. The use of vibes in this group was a very smart choice made by the leader. As a result of growing up in Brooklyn and being involved in the legendary "Jazzmobile" workshops up in Harlem in addition to a brief stint with one of the ultimate jazz teachers, Betty Carter, the alto player is particularly proud of his burgeoning role as an academy for younger players. "I work them hard... their eyes are poppin' out by the end of a practice session, but by the end of the week, the tunes really come together," says Anderson. Giving these young players a bandstand to play from is what Anderson himself was given by legends such as Sonny Stitt, Alvin Batiste, and of course, Wynton Marsalis. Says Anderson, "No matter how together you are in terms of reading and knowing what to play, you gotta get out there and do it." Speaking of just getting out there and playing, this lesson is in effect for even the most celebrated of musicians. Roughly halfway through Anderson's late set on a Wednesday night at Birdland, Wynton Marsalis strolls in and begins to play with the group - from his table! - this led to a fine bit of playing featuring Wynton, Warmdaddy and the fine baritone player, Gideon Feldstein, another Wynton Alumni. A fine capper to a great, relaxed set of WarmDaddy and crew.