Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the storytelling stylings of Wess Anderson.
Make that Wess “Warmdaddy” Anderson, because that’s his stage name. He plays saxophone, and he’s played jazz with the best.
Just throw out the names, and he’s been on stage with them. And he’s spent time with them. Lots of time.
This is something he shared with the students in the Southern University’s Alvin Batiste Jazz Institute Summer Jazz Camp.
The word “students” is a bit misleading, because it implies that Anderson spoke only to 6th through 12th graders in DeBose Music Building’s Jazz Room. Two campers’ dads also were there, and they’d been invited to sit in on the sessions.
And, man, what a session, because listening to Anderson play is special enough. But listening to him relay advice passed along to him by such jazz legends as Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt and Clark Terry is mesmerizing. Jazz fans will recognize Gillespie’s trumpet and Stitt’s sax, but Terry’s name isn’t as familiar.
Terry is a saxophonist who played with Duke Ellington and Count Basie, among others. And when Anderson was a student at Southern University, Terry visited the music department and played beside Anderson.
Anderson travels with his own band now, but he keeps in touch with Terry. And one of the most valuable lessons Terry taught Anderson was to pass it on.
Anderson was doing just that, and Ricky Julien Jr. listened closely. He and his dad traveled to the campus from their home in Sunset every day during the week-long camp, which ran June 17-21.
Julien Jr.’s dad is the band director at Sunset Middle School. The senior Julien plays trombone, the younger plays trumpet. They returned home to practice what they learned.
“We always practice by ourselves first after we get home, then we put it together,” the dad said.
“I love jazz,” his son said. “It’s more free.”
The younger Julien has exchanged the sounds of Jay-Z for his favorite jazz trumpeters. He rattled off his list of favorites while in institute director Harry Anderson’s office. There’s Lee Morgan, Terrance Blanchard and, yes, Gillespie.
Now the younger Julien sat before Anderson, who not only met but actually knew Gillespie. The trumpeter once told Anderson, “Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out.”
Anderson was just staring out and having trouble grasping a few jazz concepts at the time.
“He saw me years later when I was playing with Wynton Marsalis,” Anderson said. “He asked, ‘Did you figure it out?’ It brought a tear to my eye that he’d remember me like that.”
Indeed, bassist Anderson has. As have fellow clinicians drummer Herman Jackson, sax man Donald Evans, and pianist and composer Michael Esneault. They all know that jazz lives when it’s passed to the next generation.
Even through a session of storytelling.