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Music Review: Dave Anderson Quartet – Clarity

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The immunization I received against the soprano saxophone from Kenny G was thought to be permanent.  Then along came Dave Anderson to break the spell with his debut recording, Clarity (Aug.1). Bassist Rufus Reid is quoted in the liner notes, “It’s great to hear someone care for the soprano saxophone.”

I agree.  Anderson also plays the alto sax on this CD.

Image courtesy Dave Anderson

The Dave Anderson Quartet includes John Hansen on piano, Chuck Kistler on bass, and Adam Kessler on drums.  For Clarity, Thomas Marriott (on flugelhorn) sits in with the group on track two,   “Wabi-Sabi”.  With the exception of two tracks, one and eight, Anderson composed all the music here.  He began playing alto sax at age eleven and has become proficient on all members of the saxophone family of instruments. He’s played numerous jazz festivals and worked with such artists as Gene Bertoncini and  Mel Torme.  After ten years in the New York City music scene, he moved to the West Coast in 2005 and now calls Seattle home.

The CD begins with three notes from Kistler’s bass. They are repeated and then joined by drums and piano then Anderson comes  in to introduce the melody.  The combination is like a sunrise on a clear day. Anderson’s sax seems to dance — and makes you want to join in.  Then back to Hansen on piano with a statement of what’s to come. He shines throughout the album on his solos and improvs and compliments the others throughout.  

The crisp clear voice of Marriott’s flugelhorn is spotlighted in track two and makes this reviewer wish that jazz groups offered more frequent opportunities for this instrument.  The unique sounds of the flugelhorn add a distinct charm to “Wasi-Sabi”, the first of Anderson’s compositions that we hear on the album.  

Despite my enthusiasm for the synergy of the quartet, perhaps my favorite track is “The Aviator”, a duet with Anderson and Hansen.  As suggested by the title, this track shows that Anderson can indeed fly and he puts his heart into this emotional piece.  Again, Hansen’s piano work is significant and thoughtful.

Track ten is the last and one of the shortest and most intriguing on the CD. The title “Moving On” suggests a busy immediate future that is waiting just beyond the short “goodbye” of this track.

When referring to a business, we look to the person whose name is on the sign and in this case, Dave Anderson delivers.  Anderson’s performance on sax is precise yet soulful and displays the maturity of a seasoned musician despite his youth.  He’s written pieces that define what jazz in the 21st century is all about. His compositions offer the various members of the group opportunities to display their own significant talents. With a nod to the past and soundly rooted in the present, he throws down a challenge not only to himself, but the entire jazz community itself.  Let’s see where jazz can go!

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