Trombonist Clifton Anderson's uncle is Sonny Rollins. Which is neither here nor there, since Clifton never brings it up. But the connection is important because it helps explain Clifton's drive and determination to make a jazz statement. He knows there's history at stake, even though making a mark isn't particularly easy these days. Jazz gigs are harder to come by, and the trombone is a tougher sell than most jazz instruments. [Photo above of Clifton Anderson by John Abbott]
With all of that said, Clifton's new album And So We Carry On (Daywood Drive) dodges all of those marketplace obstacles. What I love most about Clifton's playing here is his tone. It's reminiscent of trombonist Wayne Henderson's soul-jazz sound with the Crusaders in the early- and mid-'70s (Chain Reaction, Keep That Same Old Feeling). Clifton plays with plenty of hard-bop power, but he also delivers the punch with high-register sensitivity, evoking the pleading grace of a French horn.
Six of the nine tracks are Clifton originals, and each has a different melodic personality. The title track is hard bop with a thunderous and unsettled '70s feel. Niokim is a medium tempo jazz spiritual that opens with Clifton playing solo before the group launches into the song's chorus. [Photo above of Clifton Anderson by John Abbott]
On the ballad Alexer Is, Clifton exhibits enormous tenderness, and his cinematic sense of suspense holds the ear. We're also given a sense of Clifton's plunger technique on the lightly Latin jazz Remember This.
The standards Where or When, Tomorrow (from Annie) and Falling in Love with Love are taken at robust tempos and Clifton raises the ante on the originals, exploding with energy and instrumental texture rather than playing straight and safe.
Clifton is joined by a quite a team of superb musicians—including Monty Alexander (piano) [pictured], Bob Cranshaw and Essiet Essiet (bass), Kenny Garrett (soprano sax), Wallace Roney (trumpet), Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums) and Eric Wyatt (tenor saxophone).
In Clifton's hands, you hear the trombone in a modern guise—a vibrato-less singing voice that is rightly concerned with putting a fast shine on notes rather than lingering and overstaying its welcome.
To listen to all of the album's tracks, go here.
JazzWax clip: Here's Clifton Anderson talking about his new album...