March 12 2009 12:00 AM

New Orleans singer joins ‘Warmdaddy’ Anderson for local Mardi Gras feast


Some people get impatient when a radio announcer lists all the musicians on a jazz track.

It takes even longer to name all the dishes that will be served at Wess and Desi Anderson’s upcoming Mardi Gras bash.

“We’re bringing southeast Louisiana to Old Town,” Desi said.

On the musical side, Wessell “Warmdaddy” Anderson, alto saxophonist and MSU Professor of Jazz, will set the party tone by playing three sets with Randy Gelispie on drums, Rick Roe on piano, Noah Jackson on bass, and a guest vocalist, longtime New Orleans jazz queen Germaine Bazzle.

It’s a fair sized combo, but Wess’s wife, Desi, has them outgunned.

“My wife is really putting on the show,” Anderson said. “It’s unbelievable what’s going on.”

Desi Anderson runs the snug little Gumbo & Jazz eatery in East Lansing.

For the Mardi Gras feast, Desi is readying more than 15 authentic Louisiana dishes, including seafood gumbo, stuffed bell peppers with turkey dirty rice, crawfish etouffe, cornbread dressing, lima beans and tasso (a smoked pork), deer and chicken sauce piquante, boudin links (a rice and pork sausage), bread pudding, jambalaya, and more.

“It’s a typical Mardi Gras dinner,” Desi Anderson said modestly.

Both Andersons have admired singer Germaine Bazzle for years.

“She is one of the best kept vocal secrets of New Orleans,” Anderson said.

Playing with a singer often brings out the best in Anderson, one of the jazz world’s top alto sax men and longtime partner of trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. “That’s my thing,” he said. “I have an ear for it. I find their space and fill it in.”

Anderson has played with Bazzle dozens of times, and compared her to greats like Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson and Betty Carter.

“She produces the sound of an instrument without any words,” Anderson said. “She’s been working and gigging a lot, but she couldn’t leave the city because of her regular job.”

That would be Bazzle’s career as a music teacher at Xavier Prep, an all-girl Catholic school in New Orleans.

For years, Bazzle spent days getting young singers to sit up straight and project their voices.

At night, local jazz fans savored her rich voice and classy style, often with Marsalis family patriarch Ellis Marsalis at the piano.

Now and then, a student’s jaw would drop after catching the strict “Miss Bazzle” at a nightclub, slinking though the spotlight in pearls and satin, snapping her fingers and scatting in a husky contralto.

Desi Anderson said that when she and Wess were in their 20s and living near New Orleans, they often sought her out.

“She thinks it’s an honor to come here, but the honor is ours,” she said.

As soon as Bazzle retired from Xavier, Anderson pounced.

“I said, ‘Now I gotcha,’” he laughed. “This will be a great new surprise for Lansing. A first — and it won’t be the last."

Mardi Gras in Old Town

7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21 Perspective 2, 319 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing. $75 per person/$130 per couple Tables available for four ($250) and six ($360) (517) 853-5880 www.perspective2studio.com