Willie Anderson on record

Detroit had several active record companies in the late 1940s, so it’s not surprising that the Willie Anderson trio made some records. They cut two titles for Fortune around 1947-48 and four titles that were issued on Jamboree, a New York City-based label, around the same time. Anderson may have gone to Manhattan to record, but the trip was a washout, according to his sister Bernice Fluelen. “There was supposed to be something organized there for him but it didn’t happen.”

The six numbers Anderson’s group waxed reveal how cohesive the group had become from playing together five or six nights each week for two years. The recordings include clever arrangements of novelty numbers, ballads, blues and bravura performances of “The Man I Love” and “Just Squeeze Me” featuring Anderson. “The Man I Love” is the best of the bunch; it could have been performances such as this that inspired Barry Ulanov to praise Anderson. There are echoes of Nat Cole and Erroll Garner but the sound and style are Willie Anderson’s.

He also recorded two numbers with an all-star pick-up band led by the now-forgotten drummer Charles Johnson that featured Yusef Lateef and Anderson. Future Flame Show Bar bandleader Maurice King arranged both selections. Baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams is present but doesn’t solo. There are also 20 minutes of informal jamming with Anderson and bassist Al Martin. Given Anderson’s popularity, it is possible additional privately recorded material exists and waits to be discovered.

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