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Ray Anderson's 'Sweet Chicago Suite' On JazzSet

Ray Anderson (right) leads his scaled-down Pocket Brass Band at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival.
Adam Kissick for NPR
Ray Anderson (right) leads his scaled-down Pocket Brass Band at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival.

This set takes us to the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival for trombonist Ray Anderson and his Pocket Brass Band as they perform Anderson's Sweet Chicago Suite. To open: a high-energy chorus of "76 Trombones" by Pocket Brass at the 1997 Iowa City Jazz Festival, as originally heard on our long-running, go-where-the-music-is series, JazzSet.

Although the charismatic Ray Anderson grew up in the Windy City, today he lives on Long Island. He's the Director of Jazz Studies and, in fact, the only jazz professor at Stony Brook University. From undergrads who played in high school and want to keep the music going while they major in something else to students who chose Stony Brook for its high-end classical music faculty, Anderson teaches everyone, including graduate students who have come to the campus to study with Ray.

At Newport, he brings the band, writes the music, narrates the set — his "musical memoir" of growing up in Chicago in the 1960s — and preaches on trombone. His scaled-down Pocket Brass Band aims to sound like a full-sized jazz marching band.

"In the tradition of brass bands, you play all the time, but when there's only three brass players and you're trying to create the vibe of this giant celebratory sound, it's hard work," Anderson tells WBGO's Simon Rentner. "And we love it."

Each member is chosen for a reason. Anderson tells Rentner, "I know no one on earth anywhere that can play as much tuba, especially sousaphone, as Matt Perrine. Perrine is the man of steel, [so playing a full set] doesn't bother him at all. He's ready to play some more."

Anderson and trumpeter Lew Soloff have a long musical partnership. As Anderson told me in a phone interview, "It's easy to improvise together. There's a flow. [I] understand the conversation, give-and-take, call and response, back and forth. It's a joy." And drummer Eric McPherson came to the Pocket Brass Band from the Marty Ehrlich/Ray Anderson Quartet; McPherson has been with Pocket Brass for "the last couple of years," Anderson says, adding, "It's a sho-nuff band!"

Also from the Harbor Stage at Newport, Rez Abbasi's trio plays a movement from Suno Suno, commissioned by Chamber Music America. Like Anderson, Abbasi weaves music from his childhood together with jazz. But in Abbasi's case, it's Qawwali music from his birth country of Pakistan. The piece is titled "Overseas," and the players are Abbasi on guitar, John Hebert on bass and drummer Dan Weiss.

Set List

  • "Chicago Greys"
  • "High School"
  • "Magnificent Mistifiyo"
  • "Going To Maxwell Street"/"Get To It"
  • "Some Day"
  • All music by Ray Anderson.


  • Ray Anderson, trombone
  • Lew Soloff, trumpet
  • Matt Perrine, sousaphone
  • Eric McPherson, drums
  • Credits

    Sweet Chicago Suite is made possible with support from Chamber Music America's New Jazz Works: Commissioning and Ensemble Development program, funded through the generosity of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which also funds JazzSet. There's a recent CD version on the Intuition Records label.

    Recordings and Abbasi mix by Antonio Oliart, WGBH. Pocket Brass mix by Duke Markos. Thanks to the WBGO/The Checkout team, including Joshua Jackson and Simon Rentner.

    Copyright 2014 WBGO

    Becca Pulliam