Born Wessell Patrick Anderson on November 27, 1964, in Brooklyn, NY; married Desimonae (Desi) Moore, 1990; children: Wessell Anderson IV ("Quad"). Education: Studied under Alvin Batiste at Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA. Addresses: Office--c/o The Juilliard School, 60 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023-6588.

Suave and debonair, Wessell "Warm Daddy" Anderson embodies a rare combination of spontaneity and sophistication that typifies bona fide modern jazz. Anderson was "born to jazz"--his father was a jazzman, and Anderson learned his way around the jazz clubs at a young age. He played his first public jam on the saxophone with Sonny Stitt at age 14, and at age 20 made a one-week guest appearance with the brothers Marsalis. A gifted musician and all-around jazz artist, Anderson is one of the original members of New York City's prestigious Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Anderson is a composer of popular tunes, and he plays both alto and sopranino saxophone, piano, and clarinet. Anderson belongs to a new generation of jazz musicians, college educated yet well-schooled in the old traditions and the old styles. He is a talented man with an impressive list of musical credentials. Anderson's friends maintain that whenever he is not playing jazz, he is listening to it.

Born Wessell Patrick Anderson in Brooklyn, New York, on November 27, 1964, he was the second of two children born to Barbara Elizabeth and Wessell Anderson, Jr. Anderson Jr., a respected jazz drummer with Cecil Payne, wasted no time in initiating his only son into the world of New York jazz. Anderson III was barely into grade school when he first accompanied his father to a weekend gig. While Anderson was growing up, the jazz clubs were special places where father and son nurtured an exclusive bond, and men like Cecil Payne were Anderson's mentors.

Anderson was 12 years old when he began his formal musical training; he started with classical piano. The following year he switched to the clarinet, and at age 14 he added alto saxophone. About the same time that Anderson entered Martin Luther High School in the borough of Queens, he befriended saxophone great Sonny Stitt, when Stitt was performing at Brooklyn's Blue Coronet Club. Anderson by that time was articulate and at ease around jazz musicians. He sidled up to Stitt, and before the evening ended, Anderson was invited to the stage to perform with Stitt. Stitt and Anderson were mutually gratified by the performance, so much so that the adolescent Anderson performed as a welcome sidelight to Stitt's act for months afterward, during Stitt's frequent appearances at the Blue Coronet.

Throughout high school, jazz was the essence of Anderson's life. He studied, practiced, and performed with his saxophone. He took private lessons; he enrolled in Harlem's Jazzmobile school; he expanded his instrumental studies to include the alto saxophone; and he played with McDonald's Tri-State High School Jazz Orchestra throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York State. The Harlem Jazzmobile program--the name is deceiving--is an intensive school of studies for young jazz aspirants. Jazzmobile classes run all day on Saturday, in sessions lasting several month apiece. As a Jazzmobile student under the direction of Frank Wess, Frank Foster, and Charles Davis, Anderson played his instruments, studied music theory, and learned the art of performance. The group traveled to local concerts to hear the sounds of contemporary jazz so plentiful in New York.

It was on a Jazzmobile outing to the Park at Grant's Tomb in New York City in 1982 that Anderson initially befriended Branford Marsalis. Anderson was a senior in high school at the time, and Marsalis, less than five years Anderson's senior, was among the performers in the concert at the park that day. Anderson was impressed by both Branford Marsalis and his brother Wynton, because of their youthful success and early accomplishment. He introduced himself to Branford Marsalis, and they talked. Marsalis offered Anderson some excellent advice and urged him to enroll at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where master jazzman Alvin Batiste directs the school's Jazz Institute. Marsalis's advice was well taken, and Anderson canceled his tentative plans to attend Berkelee Music School in Boston. He enrolled instead at Southern University.

At Southern University and under the tutelage of Batiste, Anderson's music talent matured rapidly. Anderson joined the university jazz band which performed annually at the nearby New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and during the jazz fest in 1985 Anderson crossed paths with Branford Marsalis once again. Marsalis was impressed by Anderson's musical growth and invited him to play with the Marsalis ensemble for one week as a guest. Anderson obliged, joined the band in Cleveland, and then returned to Baton Rouge to continue his studies. Anderson honed his raw talent and by 1988 he was invited to join the Marsalis ensemble once again, this time as a permanent member. Anderson weighed his decision carefully, consulted with Batiste, and opted to leave school to accept the extraordinary opportunity. Thus the Marsalis Quintet expanded into a sextet.

On July 4, 1988, just prior to joining with the Marsalis group, Anderson played his first professional gig with singer Betty Carter in Chicago. He toured with Carter for the next two months, before his September debut with the Marsalises.

Professional Life

Anderson's professional career was barely underway in 1988 when he was invited to join the an exciting new organization that was just being formed: the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (LCJO). As the house band of the Live at Lincoln Center organization, LCJO is the cornerstone of a continuing program of concerts, tours, radio and television broadcasts, and educational events. The orchestra performs concerts throughout the United States and around the world. LCJO recordings include Blood on the Fields, Jump Start and Jazz, and the Fire of the Fundamentals. Critic Stanley Crouch wrote of LCJO in 1997, "It is always a major event whenever the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra comes on stage, clean as the Board of Health and ready to swing."

In 1993 Anderson broke out a new horn--a sopranino saxophone. He assembled his own band, and assumed the position of band leader for the first time in his career. The resulting "Warmdaddy" albums, released by Atlantic Records in 1994 and 1995, were well received. Anderson was originally dubbed "Warm Daddy" by LCJO drummer Herlin Riley, and the nickname stuck. Wynton Marsalis, in his book Sweet Swing Blues on the Road, explains the sentiment behind Warm Daddy--the nickname and the man--"People love to be around Wes. ... They can feel the love ... a sweetheart. His personality comes through his playing ... that's why we call him Warm Daddy." The musical selections on The Ways of Warmdaddy, and Warmdaddy in the Garden of Swing were written almost exclusively by Anderson, including the memorable "Desimonae" which was written by Anderson for Desi, his wife. Other tunes which Anderson holds among his personal favorites are "In the Garden of Swing," and "Baton Rouge Blues." Warmdaddy in the Garden of Swing was rated among the top ten recordings for 1994 by Peter Watrous of the New York Times. His Live at the Village Vanguard, released in 1998, was universally hailed by critics and fans alike.

Anderson maintains a hectic pace between performances with LCJO both in New York and on tour. He is deeply involved with LCJO workshops and gives lessons and master classes. He rounds out his schedule with Live from Lincoln Center broadcasts on Public Broadcasting System and legacy performances with the Marsalis ensemble, now the Marsalis Septet.

Anderson also finds time for recording sessions with his own talented quintet, four very young jazzmen handpicked by Anderson personally from around the United States. Group members Irvin Mayfield on trumpet, Xavier Davis on piano, Steve Kirby on bass, and Jaz Sawyer on drums, were mostly in their teens when they joined Anderson. Together they perform headline performances, frequently as the house band at the Funky Butt Restaurant in New Orleans's French Quarter--whenever Anderson's schedule permits him to be home in Baton Rouge.

Husband, Father, Mentor, Teacher

Wes, Wess, or Wessell Anderson--he goes by all three--married Desimonae (Desi) Moore on February 14, 1990 in Atlanta, Georgia. The bride's grandfather officiated at the ceremony. The couple have one son, Wessell Anderson IV, affectionately nicknamed "Quad," born June 10, 1990. The family makes their home in Baton Rouge, where Desimonae Anderson stays extremely involved in special education programs. She is especially involved with education for the hearing impaired. She also sings locally and works as a camp counselor. Quad aspires to be a drummer, like his grandfather.

Anderson is relaxed and confident with success and notoriety. In 1994 he received the City of New Orleans' Big Easy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Sax Player, In 1996 he received the Gambit Music Magazine Award for Best Sax Player. He was honored by the American Embassy in Manila during a performance there, and was likewise honored by cities around the world, for spreading good will through his performances. Anderson is also a permanent fixture at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival where he performs annually, having not missed a year since his first appearance with the collegiate band from Southern University in 1982. Anderson is everywhere, motivated by a love of jazz and a desire to "give something back" to the next generation, and his efforts are commendable. In 1996 he was honored by the City of New Orleans for his generous help in founding the city's Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp for children, and apart from the Armstrong Camp, Anderson and his wife own and operate their own Jambalaya Jazz Workshop and Summer Camp in Baton Rouge, a camp that offers assorted music programs for children of all ages. He joined the faculty of the prestigious Juilliard School in New York in 2001, and continues to teach jazz studies and saxophone at the school. With Jambalaya Jazz, the Louis Armstrong Camp, LCJO educational programs, and as a Juilliard teacher, Anderson inspires a new generation of jazz artists.

by Gloria Cooksey

Wessell Anderson's Career

Played first public appearance with Sonny Stitt, age 14; made one-week guest appearance with the brothers Marsalis, age 20; joined the Marsalis group, 1988; joined the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, 1988; released The Ways of Warmdaddy, 1994; released Warmdaddy in the Garden of Swing, 1995; joined the faculty of the Juilliard School in New York City, 2001.

Famous Works

Further Reading



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