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Bill Anschell's Notes from the Lobby: A New Column at All About Jazz

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Bill Anschell
All About Jazz has launched a new column in collaboration with musician, composer, writer and humorist, Bill Anschell. You can read Bill's latest “Notes from the Lobby" installment “Careers in Jazz“ (published yesterday) along with his archive here.

Bill Anschell's Notes from the Lobby


More About Bill

Seattle native Bill Anschell returned to the Emerald City in 2002 after spending 25 years studying, composing, and performing across the country and around the world.

Anschell left Seattle after high school, studying for two years at Oberlin College (Ohio), then earning his Music Degree from Wesleyan University (Connecticut). At Wesleyan, Anschell worked closely with saxophone great Bill Barron. He also studied semi-privately with South Indian mrdangum master T Ranganathan, kindling a passion for rhythmic experimentation that has driven Anschell's music ever since.

After leading the life of a jazz vagabond for several years, Anschell settled in Atlanta in 1989. He was initially drawn there by the opportunity to serve as Jazz Coordinator for the Southern Arts Federation (SAF), the regional arts agency of the South. Firing up SAF's jazz department virtually from scratch, Anschell launched a host of high-profile programs, published a book on grantswriting, and created “JazzSouth," an internationally syndicated radio show. At night he dove headlong into the city's thriving jazz scene, working as a sideman with various groups and leading his own trio.

By 1992, Anschell's performing itinerary had grown to the point where it demanded his full attention. He left the SAF post, continuing to produce “JazzSouth" out of his home while focusing on playing and composing. Over the next ten years, Anschell ascended the jazz ranks in Atlanta, leading his trio at major festivals and becoming a first-call accompanist for visiting jazz greats. His trio's highlights included the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the Montreux Atlanta Festival and four extensive tours of South America.

During the same period, Anschell enjoyed a lengthy association with vocalist Nnenna Freelon, serving as her pianist, arranger and musical director. Among their many performing highlights were the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland, the Monterey Jazz Festival in California, the Kennedy Center in Washington, and six European tours. Their concerts were broadcast on Radio France; French national television; and NPR's “JazzSet." Anschell's piano work and arrangements were featured throughout Freelon's 1996 Concord release Shaking Free, which was nominated for a Grammy as the year's best jazz vocal recording.

Anschell was the featured artist in the December, 1997 issue of Jazz Player magazine, which included a “play-along" CD of his original music. His own CDs have earned critical acclaim and widespread exposure, with the last three discs all making Jazzweek's national “Top 50" chart for radio airplay. Anschell's 1998 release, a different note all together, was selected by United Press International (UPI) as one of the “10 Best" jazz releases of the year. His latest CD, More to the Ear than Meets the Eye, was chosen by numerous critics and radio stations across the country for their “10 Best of 2006" lists.

Anschell has played and/or recorded with a host of jazz greats including Richard Davis, Ron Carter, Benny Golsen and Russell Malone. In 2001, he was selected by the American Composers Forum for its “Composer-in-the-Schools" program; his residency included a commissioned piece for chamber orchestra. The same year, his piano work was featured in the soundtrack of the PBS movie, “Old Settler." Since 2003, Anschell's original compositions have received widespread cable and network exposure, appearing on programs including NBC's “The West Wing" and HBO's acclaimed series “The Wire."

As a Seattleite, Anschell had the honor of playing a weekly gig with Northwest jazz legend Floyd Standifer for the final two years before his passing. In 2005, Anschell received a Golden Ear Award as the “Northwest Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year," and in 2006 his trio was named the “Best Northwest Acoustic Jazz Ensemble." Golden Ears are administered by Earshot Jazz based on open voting by the Seattle jazz community.

In 2008, Anschell's Atlanta trio reunited for a fifth South American tour, visiting the Colombian cities of Medellin, Pereira and Manizales.

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