[JPL] Pianist Chris Anderson Passing

Jazz Promo Services jazzpromo at earthlink.net
Wed Feb 6 11:38:03 EST 2008

Apologies, the date Chris passed was Monday, February 4th, 2008 (not the
26th as was originally indicated).

Pianist Chris Anderson Passing

I am very saddened to inform you of the passing of the great pianist, CHRIS
ANDERSON on February 26th from a stroke. I do not have any details for what
is planned, but promise to forward as soon as I get them.
Chris Anderson was born in Chicago on February 26, 1926. He passed away just
before his 82nd birthday two years after suffering a stroke. His lifelong
fascination with harmony, sparked by movie scores, began well before the age
of ten. He was already teaching himself to play on the family piano, so well
indeed that he never took lessons ­ a clue to the startling originality of
his harmonic ideas.before Chris finished high school, he was playing blues
gigs in South Side bars. An after high school job in a record store exposed
him to Nat King Cole, Art Tatum and Duke Ellington; from then on, jazz was
his music.

After those first three great mentors, Chris rarely listened to pianists. As
he put it, ³I¹d be more interested in listening to an arranger than to a
pianist. Gil Evans for example, or Nelson Riddle - they fascinated me. The
things Riddle did for Sinatra knocked me out.² Consistent with his interest
for harmony and arrangement, his classical listening favored the great
impressionist orchestrators, Debussy and Ravel.

By the time he was 18, he was playing piano for Leo Blevins, an influential
Chicago guitarist who knew almost all the Jazz stars. That year, due to Leo,
Chris started playing with Sonny Stitt. Within two years, he was playing the
famous Pershing Ballroom concerts with Charlie Parker and Howard McGhee; two
of these have been preserved on record. He was 20, and due to steadily
worsening cataracts, became completely blind.

For the next 15 years as house pianist for several of Chicago¹s best Jazz
clubs, Chris played with a steady stream of the greats: Sonny Rollins,
Clifford Brown, Gene Ammons, Max Roach, Stan Getz, Johnny Griffin, Roland

At the same time he was playing with and influencing a a whole generation of
young Chicago musicians, many of them destined for greatness. Among them
were Wilbur Ware, Clifford Jordan, Von Freeman, Billy Wallace, George
Coleman, Wilbur Campbell and Harold Maburn. Chris, with characteristic
modesty, speaks of them not as followers, but as close musical brothers.
³Heck, they influenced me as much as I influenced them.²

In 1960, Herbie Hancock heard Chris Anderson play. ³Chris¹ music has
affected the core of my music very deeply. After hearing him play just once,
I begged him to let me study with him. Chris Anderson is a master of harmony
and sensitivity. I shall be forever indebted to him and his very special

In 1961, Dinah Washington, having run through several piano players in the
previous year, asked Chris to tour with her. Despite Chris¹ brilliance as a
singer¹s accompanist, the musicians in Chicago were betting that he wouldn¹t
last two months with the evil-tempered Dinah. Sure enough, in New York six
weeks later, she fired him. Chris decided to stay on and play in New York.
His crippling bone condition limited his ability to work, though he appeared
regularly as a soloist in Barry Harris¹s annual concerts and made the most
of the gigs he had at Bradley¹s, the Village Vanguard, the Jazz Gallery, and
Smalls. Through these infrequent appearances his playing was able to
influence a handful of younger musicians who were lucky enough to have seen
or played with the master, including Ronnie Ben-Hur, Ari Roland and Jason

He left a small but significant number of recordings. Plans are in the works
to make an extensive collection of his music available for posterity.
For more information, please contact:
Al Sutton 
ph: 917.497.7522 
email: a sutton1 at nyc.rr.com

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