February 6, 2006
‘Warmdaddy’ to blow cool blues at Jazz Fest
BY Sally Corbett
Louisiana saxophonist Wess “Warmdaddy” Anderson, a beloved musician from Baton Rouge nicknamed for his warmth, will join the Gary Motley Trio for an evening of jazz and blues in the Schwartz Center’s Emerson Concert Hall as the highlight of the 2006 Emory Jazz Festival, held on campus Feb. 9–11.
On Thursday, Feb. 9, the public is invited to Schwartz to observe a jazz improvisation class (10 a.m.) and “Perspectives on Performance” saxophone masterclass (2:30 p.m.) with Anderson, an Emory Coca-Cola Artist in Residence. The festival ends Saturday, Feb. 11, in its traditional way with a free 8 p.m. concert by the Emory Big Band. With the exception of the Anderson/Gary Motley Trio concert on Friday, Feb. 10, all festival events are free.
Motley, lecturer, pianist and director of jazz studies at Emory, and Schwartz Center Director Bob McKay collaborated in booking Anderson to headline the festival. Motley met “Warmdaddy” in Birmingham in the mid-1980s, and the two maintain a friendship and working relationship. Their collaborations include performances for a CD release and on stage with Motley’s trio, and as members of Wynton Marsalis’ septet, performing Marsalis’ “Bitter Sweet Saga of Sugar Cane” and “Sweetie Pie” with the Augusta Ballet.
Blues fans take note: “Wess tries to find the blues in everything that he plays,” Motley said. “He’s really soulful, like Cannonball [Adderley]. His music is so accessible that sometimes his virtuosity might escape you. But when you realize it, look out—I don’t know any other alto saxophonist that gets around the horn with the ease and facility that Wess does. That was Cannonball’s trademark. It’s nice to see the torch being carried on.”
Anderson, the son of a jazz drummer, got his musical start while growing up in Brooklyn. He taught, and is now a clinician, at the Juilliard Institute for Jazz Studies and is alto saxophonist for Marsalis’ Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
“Wess is one of the funniest people I know; his quick wit and humor will keep you laughing,” Motley said. “He is also very grounded. That’s why he’s known as ‘Warmdaddy.’
I was very nervous about meeting Marsalis, let alone playing with him. With ‘Warmdaddy’ on the bandstand, I was so busy laughing and having fun that I didn’t have time to be nervous.
“Mind you, the music was serious business,” Motley continued, “but we always had fun in the process. That has become our mantra: Have fun, make sure the music is swinging—and be sure to play the blues.”
Completing Motley’s trio for the Feb. 10 gig are special guest musicians from Michigan, bassist Paul Keller and drummer Peter Siers. Both Keller and Siers lead and are members of multiple ensembles for contemporary and traditional jazz. Motley, Siers and Keller were the rhythm section for Russell Malone’s Black Butterfly CD and worked together for a year with Malone touring the United States and Europe.
The Feb. 11 Emory Big Band concert marks the second anniversary of the ensemble that was re-organized under Motley and now plays with the maturity of more seasoned and established bands. The band members are students, alumni and others affiliated with Emory. Motley set the big band’s mission: pay homage to the tradition while acknowledging the work of contemporary composers.
“The students are very open to learning about the traditional literature while being allowed to contribute their own ideas to the newer compositions,” Motley said.
The excitement surrounding this year’s festival reflects a jazz program at Emory that is taking off. Plans are being made to include more jazz courses and increase interaction with industry professionals. Emory now has four jazz combos, in addition to the big band. Those combos will perform later in the semester, beginning with a free show on March 30 at 8 p.m. in the Schwartz Center. Trumpeter Phillip Harper will perform with the band on April 25, also free, in the Schwartz Center.
Tickets for the Friday night show with Anderson and Motley’s trio are $5 for Emory faculty and staff; free for Emory students with ID; and $10 general admission.
For more information, visit www.arts.emory.edu or call 404-727-5050.