Inverted Image: CHRIS ANDERSON Trio
Chris Anderson (p) Bill Lee (b) Philly Joe Jones (*) (b) or Walter Perkins (b)
Recorded in New York City; June 28 (*) and November 8, 1961
Inverted Image (5:55) (Chris Anderson)
Lullaby of the Leaves (4:50) (Young-Petkere)
My Funny Valentine (4:22) (Rodgers and Hart)
See You Saturday (*) (4:31) (Anderson-Lee)
Dancing in the Dark (4:28) (Dietz-Schwartz)
Only One (3:30) (Bill Lee)
I Hear a Rhapsody (*) (5:03) (Fragos-Baker)
You’d Be So Nice to Come Home to (*) (5:43) (Cole Porter)
This album is the first to spotlight the unusual talents of a Chicago-born pianist named CHRIS ANDERSON. Like all musical performance, Anderson’s work must stand on its merits, and we think it is quite capable of standing very strongly on that basis. Yet it is impossible to ignore certain other factors. For, all things considered, it is quite remarkable that he is a working musician at all – let alone and extremely skilled and inventive one. For Chris Anderson is not only blind, but crippled. He has been blind since that age of nineteen, which was only about a year after he had begun playing piano seriously; and a childhood bone disease has added to his problems by making him susceptible to bone breakage.
There has been quite a lot written about blindness and jazz piano, and much of it has been nonsense. The practical point that it is by and easier for a sightless man to play the piano than any other instrument clearly has much to do with the relatively large quantity of blind pianists. Beyond that, the fact that this “category” (if it can be called that) includes among others Art Tatum, George Shearing and Lennie Tristano, should demonstrate not only is there a great variety of musical approach among such pianists, but also that the effect of blindness and of adapting to it is equally varied and more a matter of the specific individual personality than anything else.
In Anderson, there is most noticeably a lyrical quality of great intensity, an much in evidence at a swinging tempo (as in Lullaby of the Leaves) as in any of the three ballads included here: My Funny Valentine, I Hear a Rhapsody, and Bill Lee’s memorably melodic Only One. Coupled with this lyricism is a harmonic conception that bassist Lee, a fellow-Chicagoan who has known him since 1948 (three years after Chris gradually went blind), considers to be as advanced as that of any pianist now playing. This combination – venturing into harmonic exploration without any sacrificing of melodic beauty – brings to my mind Bill Evans, probably the sonly other current pianist to juxtapose these two elements successfully. But this comment is not intended to suggest any similarity of style; actually, I’d go along with Lee’s comment that there is no concrete evidence of anyone else’s influence or approach in Anderson’s playing. I hear some Bud Powell, perhaps, but probably less than you hear in most pianists. Inverted Image, a blues with “some different changes” that Anderson hopes other musicians will “pay attention to,” is slightly Monk-ish at times, but really no more than slightly.
Like many musicians who have stayed away from the New York center of the jazz scene (Lee says Chris “had been trying to leave Chicago for fourteen years,” but he didn’t do so until 1916), Anderson has been something of a legend among his colleagues. His physical handicaps and the praises sung by emigrants from the Windy City helped pain the picture, and so did his own reticence to talk about himself. Even at the time of recording he didn’t have much to say about his background, and when these notes were being written he was hospitalized for treatment of an injured hip, leaving Bill Lee the only real source of date.) Jazzland-Riverside producer Orrin Keepnews, who had heard of Anderson from Johnny Griffin, Wilbur Ware and other impressed Chicagoans, first heard him play at a session in that city in ’59 and extended an invitation to record that was finally taken up two years later when Chris, while working briefly with Dinah Washington, came to New York and decided to stay for a while.
The album was to have been recorded in its entirety in June, with Lee and Philly Joe Jones. But Anderson was dissatisfied with much of his work that day: he complained that he felt nervous, not in the best of health, and above all that he could do much better. Eventually, after setting on using the best results of the June date, another session was set up later in the year. Philly Joe being out of town with the Miles Davis sextet, Walter Perkins, currently Sonny Rollins’ drummer and a member of Chris’ Chicago rooting section who has known him since the early ‘50s, was called on. The new trio came to the studio after having recorded all afternoon as accompanists to a signer – but rather than being tired out, the presumably fragile Anderson rose to the occasion and moved through the balance of this album with ease!
Like most ‘legends’, Chris in reality is not a super being, but he is decidedly an imaginative jazz artist with much to offer. It is not hard to understand why Charlie Parker sought him out on his visits to Chicago (Chris worked on Bird’s last engagement at the Bee Hive), or why, as Lee reports, singers in particular have always appreciated him. After he went blind, Anderson stopped playing for a year, understandably enough; then he returned to music, determined that fate would not deprive him of what he wanted most. Fifteen years later, it is quite apparent that we all stand to benefit from that decision.
This recording is available in both Stereophonic (JLP 957) and Monaural (JLP 57) form/
(The Anderson-Lee-Perkins rhythm section can also be heard on Jazzland on Long Night: FRANK STROZIER Sextet and Quartet – JLP 56; Stereo 956)
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS and RAY FOWLER
Recording Engineers: June 28 – BILL STODDARD (at Bell Sound Studios); Nov. 8 – RAY FOWLER (at Plaza Sound Studios)
Mastered at Plaza Sound
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by BILL CLAXTON (Perkins) and STEVE SCHAPIRO (others)
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc,
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, New York