Jazz Guitarist Steps Back in Limelight with ‘Freefall’

Chuck Anderson's new album Freefall establishes him as a major force in jazz guitar.

Chuck Anderson's new album 'Freefall' establishes him as a major force in jazz guitar.

Chuck Anderson is part of an elite group: world-class jazz musicians who focused their careers not on performing, but on passing the baton to others. Like the late Dennis Sandole and Charlie Banacos before him, Chuck spent his career focused on educating and mentoring students, many of whom went onto illustrious careers.

Now at 62, Chuck Anderson has returned to his roots as a performer, and in his new CD Freefall, you can hear Chuck playing some of the best guitar of his life. Freefall contains 12 original compositions, 10 performed with the Chuck Anderson Trio. Music After 50 talked to Chuck about the new album, and why he was out of the public eye for so many years.

LRG: What makes this album different from anything you’ve done previously?

CA: This album represents the culmination of a long journey. The Vintage Tracks represented me as a young, over- the-top-jazz guitarist – lots of brash firepower. The next CD Angel Blue showed me more as a composer. It represented a more mature writer and player. After my long absence from the jazz guitar concert world, Freefall is an amalgam of young energy and passion as well as mature writing. It’s my favorite CD of the three.
 
LRG: Did you write all of the tunes or are there any covers?

CA: All 12 songs are original. Two are solo tracks and 10 are in the trio format.

LRG: You stopped performing for many years. What inspired you to return to performance?

CA: I had been suffering, unknowingly, from severe obstructive sleep apnea for many years. It drained my energy, stopped my metabolism, and caused me to gain an enormous amount of weight. I barely had the energy to teach. When the cause of my problem was discovered, I began sleep therapy with a CPAP machine. With the return of deep sleep, I was able to moderate my eating and begin an exercise regimen. The results of these changes has been a weight loss of 110 pounds. With this renewed energy, I felt that passion and drive that I remember feeling when I was 24 years old.
  
LRG: You prefer to play in concert settings over clubs. Talk about why.

CA: Clubs have many distractions that don’t serve an audience or the performers well. The wait staff, the bartenders and, the fact that so many people are not there to hear the music distracts the performers and those who have come to hear the music. A concert setting is exclusively intended to listen to music. This is a benefit to the performers and to the audience. 

LRG: You call your music “audience friendly, progressive jazz guitar.” Talk about what makes it friendly.

CA: I think that it’s important to consider the audience when you perform jazz. This is not a compromise, but a balanced perspective concerning volume, repertoire, variety, and communication. The jazz world has developed a reputation for unfriendly and distant performers. The programming of the material and the spontaneity of the performance is what I believe makes it friendly. I am not a fusion player. The audience is the only thing that allows us to do what we do.

LRG: What type of guitar are you playing on the album?

CA: A custom Gibson L5. The “Green Hornet.”
 
LRG: The bass player and drummer both sound great on the album. Who are they?

CA: On bass, we have Eric Schreiber. Eric is relatively new to the jazz world but has excellent training, listens well, and works interactively and creatively with the trio. Ed Rick on drums brings a wide variety of experience to the band. His percussive work is solid and inspiring.
 
LRG: Although you’re a jazz guitar player, many of your students do not study jazz guitar. Is that correct?

CA: My students have a wide variety of interests and directions. I teach to the unique strengths of each student. I deal formally with guitar, bass, piano, and songwriting. The music business is another frequent topic of discussion in the lessons. I teach privately, as I believe in the power of one-on-one interaction.
 
LRG: Do you teach part time or full time?

CA: Very full time!
 
LRG: What does this album mean for you personally, and what do you hope it means for jazz guitar overall?

CA: For me, it’s a return, a rebirth. I hope that it will draw people all over the world to the jazz guitar.

Notes from LRG: Chuck Anderson’s CD release party will be held at The New Hope Winery (New Hope, Pa.) on Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 8:00 pm. The New Hope Winery is located at 6123 Lower York Road, Bucks County, PA 18938. For reservations, call 215-794-2331. Read an interview with Chuck Anderson (excerpted on Music After 50) from “Just Jazz Guitar.” The links throughout this interview go to the digital version of the CD; if you would like to buy the physical CD, order it here.

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