Ray Anderson, like Gary Valente, is a trombonist who has grown on me over the years. When I first heard recordings of Ray, my conservative JJ drenched mind heard him as crude and rough and gimmicky. As I have matured musically, I have come to hear him as vibrant and expressive and gimmicky. Gimmicky isn’t all bad. I would give certain left body parts to be able to execute some of Ray’s gimmicky stuff. Really “gimmick” isn’t right word. The crazy outlandish stuff he does with a trombone seems to be an honest part of his expression, as opposed to an attention grabbing gimmick. From a purely trombonistic angle, it is pretty amazing too.
In the last few weeks I have acquired three new (to me) albums that feature Ray Anderson in fairly varied settings.
The first is Bennie Wallace‘s celebration of Coleman Hawkins called Disorder at The Border. It utilizes a nine piece band on a program of Hawk tunes, or tunes associated with Hawk. This is a fun, swinging, spirited CD. The band has the right balance of smallness and largeness, with the power of a big band when needed and the agility of a smaller group. Ray Anderson is in classic Ray form on “Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho.” Full disclosure: I didn’t buy this music, it was sent to me by a promotions firm.
I’ve scored a couple of good Gerry Hemingway albums on eMusic. The first was a quintet album, called Double Blues Crossing, that I stumbled upon while looking for stuff with Frank Gratkowski, or maybe Wolter Weirbos. They are both on it. Somehow that eventually led me to Devil’s Paradise by the Gerry Hemingway Quartet with Ray Anderson, Ellery Eskelin, and Mark Dresser. This album is a great balance of the looseness and freedom available to this type of quartet instrumentation, and the attention to composition and arrangement that can provide coherence and focus. The music was recorded in 1999, and Anderson sounds great on it. It is also interesting to hear Eskelin out of the context of his own groups. (There are a couple of Ellery Eskelin CDs that I bought with the intention of blogging them, but that doesn’t seem to have happened…)
The third album in this little Ray Anderson trilogy is The Line Up by BassDrumBone, which is Hemingway and Anderson with bassist Mark Helias. These guys have been playing together in this format for 30 years, and you can hear the communication and comfort. In this case the comfort of old friendships adds spark not complacency. Helias plays both electric and acoustic bass on this album. I like the electric. It can hold its place as an equal voice with the trombone. The upright swings harder. Having both just allows for the best of both worlds.