Chris Anderson was born in Chicago on February 26, 1926. He passed away just before his 82nd birthday two years after suffering a stroke. His lifelong fascination with harmony, sparked by movie scores, began well before the age of 10. He was already teaching himself to play on the family piano, so well indeed that he never took lessons -- a clue to the startling originality of his harmonic ideas. Before Chris finished high school, he was playing blues gigs in South Side bars. An after-high school job in a record store exposed him to Nat King Cole, Art Tatum and Duke Ellington; from then on, jazz was his music.
After those first three great mentors, Chris rarely listened to pianists. As he put it, I'd be more interested in listening to an arranger than to a pianist. Gil Evans for example, or Nelson Riddle -- they fascinated me. The things Riddle did for Sinatra knocked me out. Consistent with his interest for harmony and arrangement, his classical listening favored the great impressionist orchestrators, Debussy and Ravel.
By the time he was 18, he was playing piano for Leo Blevins, an influential Chicago guitarist who knew almost all the Jazz stars. That year, due to Leo, Chris started playing with Sonny Stitt. Within two years, he was playing the famous Pershing Ballroom concerts with Charlie Parker and Howard McGhee; two of these have been preserved on record. He was 20, and due to steadily worsening cataracts, became completely blind.