Nashville Cats 

From stage to studio, two local jazz talents consistently deliver noteworthy performances

From stage to studio, two local jazz talents consistently deliver noteworthy performances

David Andersen

From This Moment On (self-released)

Annie Sellick

Stardust on My Sleeve (ACSD)

The latest releases from guitarist/pianist David Andersen and vocalist Annie Sellick are two more additions to a growing list of first-class jazz sessions cut right here in Nashville. The production values and performances give lie to the notion that for Music City jazz acts to make first-rate recordings, they must make the pilgrimage to New York or Los Angeles.

Andersen, in fact, came to Nashville from Los Angeles. Although he was initially discovered and signed as a writer in Hollywood by Michael H. Goldsen, he explains that Nashville played a role in his career early on. “Randy Wood, who I later found out had owned a major record store and label in Nashville, saw me playing and took a major interest in my career,” he said during a recent interview. “He’d owned Dot and later Ranwood, and through him I got to meet such people as the Mills Brothers.”

Andersen had a busy and successful run in Los Angeles for many years. His credits ranged from doing session work with KISS and Alice Cooper to opening at major L.A. clubs for Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, and Tom Waits. He relocated to Nashville in 1993 and played regularly at Slice of Life/Peaceful Planet before settling into his current gig at Cafe 123 in the fall of 1999.

While Andersen has had a long and distinguished career, Annie Sellick never planned on being a vocalist or working in the music industry. “I was studying sociology at Middle Tennessee State University and just fooling around on the side singing,” she remembers, laughing. “One time my friends got me up at a club in Murfreesboro where Roland Gresham was singing. After that, every time he’d see me, Roland would tell me to come on up and jam. Eventually, I started singing anywhere from one to five nights a week for about three-and-a-half-years. Later, I found out about the Jazz Institute [now the Nashville Jazz Workshop], and [pianist] Lori [Mechem] and [bassist] Roger [Spencer] took me under their wing. They’ve taught me so much about jazz and about performing.”

Andersen, who produced his own date, covers show tunes, ballads, and even some swing and blues on From This Moment On, which was released a couple of months ago. Sellick tackles several classic vocal standards on her debut, Stardust on My Sleeve, which came out at the end of December. While Andersen’s disc is a solo effort, Sellick is accompanied by several top local jazz players. The list includes the Mechem/Spencer duo, saxophonist Jeff Coffin, drummer Chris Brown, trumpeter Rod McGaha, and guitarist Pete Huttlinger. The session’s fine sound quality ensures that listeners fully hear the superb playing from every contributing musician, not to mention Sellick’s solid vocals and improvisations.

The toughest task for any aspiring jazz singer is finding his or her own voice, especially on such venerable chestnuts as “You’d Be So Nice,” “Everything Happens to Me,” or “Simple Life.” Sellick’s phrasing, enunciation, and timing are impressive; she never hurries any number, and already she has mastered varying her volume and emphasizing key lyrics. She’s also steadily improving in the areas of narrative pacing and scatting.

“I grew up with Motown and rock, but once I got into jazz, Anita O’Day quickly became my favorite,” Sellick says. She also cites Carmen McRae, Betty Carter, and Ella Fitzgerald, whose tone she recalls more in sensibility than style. The date’s only drawback is that it’s impossible to duplicate in studio the dynamism and electricity of Sellick in live performance. Her exuberance and obvious love for the music are refreshing onstage, particularly since far too many great jazz musicians eschew even basic audience wishes like providing song titles or engaging listeners with stories or commentary. Sellick’s overall skills have matured immeasurably over the past couple of years, and this CD should only be the recorded start to a lengthy and impressive career.

Andersen’s nimble, fluid voicings and easy, yet striking rhythmic counterpoint reflect his primary emphasis. His main goal is to play intimate, adult music, highlighting treasured standards and jazz-tinged popular material. Interestingly, he has spent considerable time also playing blues and pop tunes, enabling him to credibly cover both “Stompin’ at the Savoy” and “Every Day I Have the Blues” on his CD.

Still, his forte is lush, delightfully melodic interpretation, and that’s the most memorable quality of From This Moment On. His renditions of “My Romance,” “Somebody Loves Me,” and “What’s New” are so beautifully delivered and executed that it’s impossible not to be moved, no matter how often hard-boppers recycle these tunes on major-label projects. Andersen’s opening shows at Cafe 123 are equally enjoyable, and their caliber isn’t influenced by such variables as audience size or interest. Whether entertaining a full house or a handful of patrons droning on while downing multiple beers, Andersen offers listeners exquisitely crafted, wonderfully played guitar and piano tunes on every occasion.

While Sellick lists her future goals as writing more original songs and possibly expanding her abilities on guitar and piano, Andersen plans to release two more discs this year. One will highlight his piano work, while the other will spotlight his original compositions. In the meantime, Nashville listeners should not only purchase From This Moment On and Stardust on My Sleeve, but also catch David Andersen and Annie Sellick whenever and wherever they can.

Both artists’ releases can be obtained in area stores, and Sellick has a Web site at www.anniesellick.com. Andersen plays at Cafe 123 Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights, while Sellick frequently appears at several establishments, working either with pianist Beegie Adair and bassist Charles Dungey, the Birdsong Trio, or The Gypsy Hombres.

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