A trumpeter that shows up on both west coast jazz and rhythm & blues records, John Anderson, Jr. leaves the impression of having had very good taste in choosing his musical employment. As a result, even the most casual study of quality jazz or rhythm & blues from the west coast, circa the '40s through early '60s, will uncover at least a few of his trumpet solos. He was a Birmingham, AL, boy who studied both the alto horn and trumpet in high school. His talents were such that he was able to continue with these brass studies at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and the Westlake College of Music, training that would serve him well in the coming years when at least one employer, bandleader Stan Kenton, made music stands sag with charts as lengthy and detailed as an 18th century French essay. This training in the foundations of music continued through four years in the Navy band, including service during the second World War. Once out of the military in 1941, Anderson marched into the ranks of Los Angeles jazzmen, gigging with leaders such as Tiny Bradshaw, Kenton, and saxophonist, arranger, and composer Benny Carter, whose skills with creating charts would have as great an impact on Anderson as Kenton. In terms of discographical largess, on the other hand, it would be Kenton who gets the nod.
The trumpeter was largely known as a freelancer over the next decade, his associates including Jerry Fielding, Pérez Prado, Earl Bostic, Charles Mingus, and Buddy Collette. The latter player also brought his special instrumental talents to combos Anderson himself began leading in the late '50s. Other players that worked in the trumpeter's bands included the fine bassist Curtis Counce and trombonist Britt Woodman, a fellow Mingus associate. In 1959, Anderson grabbed a chair in the Count Basie trumpet section, and in the early '60s, he recorded with the veteran clarinet swinger Jimmy Hamilton and sunny vocal stylist Anita O'Day. His recording activities seemed to have subsided after that, although he did show up on a Doc Severinson big-band project in the mid-'70s. He cut only one album as a leader, the 1966 Time Will Tell, on the Tangerine label.
In addition to his straight jazz work, Anderson blows trumpet passages on a variety of recordings done in Los Angeles through the '50s and early '60s. He worked on many independent blues">blues and rhythm & blues sessions, as well as higher-budgeted pop creations from the major labels. Since the former enterprises zeroed in on a great deal of lively talent, listeners who enjoy exploring the roots of funk will no doubt experience an ear-cleaning of sorts via Anderson's horn on recordings by west coast rhythm & blues artists such as Amos Milburn, Jimmy Witherspoon, Steve Gibson & the Red Caps, and Big Jay McNeely. The trumpeter also recorded with pop vocalist Rick Nelson, showman Sammy Davis, Jr., and soulman Sam Cooke, among others. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi