Clifton Anderson: Road Taken

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The trombone's personality shares much in common with a scatting singer. To play the instrument effectively, you need to sing through it. Not literally, of course, but you do have to make the trombone sound as if it's functioning as a wordless vocalist. Clifton Anderson is among my favorite trombonists for this very reason. When he plays, he's channeling the sound of singing.

Clifton's new album is Been Down This Road Before, out December 4. It's a spiritual work, as he writes in his liner notes:

The album is a message at a time when racism, greed, injustice and a deadly pandemic are jeopardizing our ability to exist harmoniously with one another and with our planet. Been Down This Road Before is the culmination of several years' work, and contains 10 tracks that are brought to life by 18 sensational musicians. Included are four tributes dedicated to four special people who have been particularly influential and supportive, two of whom are no longer with us. The other six tracks represent a variety of different personal perceptions based on my life experiences.

Mission Statement sets the album's tone; Nana- D is dedicated to the late African percussionist Kimati Dinizulu; Burt Bacharach and Hal David's A House Is Not a Home expresses Clifton's feelings about America's search for its soul; Mysticancients, co-written with Rene McLean, pays a tribute to ancestors and how they tapped spiritual truths to help them solve confounding problems; In It But Not of It is about belonging to something greater than the material world; Sonny Says is dedicated to Clifton's uncle, Sonny Rollins; Sista Gemini is an homage to Clifton's sister Vallyn; T.U.B.C. is dedicated to Clifton's late mentor, bassist Bob Cranshaw; the title track was inspired by the human struggle; and Until We Meet Again is a chipper farewell to the listener. [Photo above of Clifton Anderson with his uncle, Sonny Rollins, courtesy of Clifton Anderson]

The players on the album are as follows:

Mission Statement—Clifton Anderson (tn), Stephen Scott (p), Buster Williams (b) and Al Foster (d).

Nana- D—Anderson (tb), Antoine Roney (ts), Scot (p), Williams (b), Foster (d) and Victor See Yuen (perc).

A House Is Not A Home—Anderson (tb), Scott (p), Williams (b), Ronnie Burrage (d) and See Yuen (perc).

Mysticancients—Anderson (tb/didgeridoo/zylo drum), Rene McLean (shakuhachi, shennai, bansuri, ney, fula flute) and See Yuen (perc).

In It But Not Of It—Anderson (tb), Antoine Roney (sop sax), Scott (p, Korg FV1), Williams (b), Foster (d) and See Yuen (perc).

Sonny Says—Anderson (tb), McLean (ts), Scott (p), Williams (b) and Burrage (d).

Sista Gemini—Anderson (tb), Eric Wyatt (ts), Scott (p), Williams (b) and Burrage (d).

T.U.B.C.—Anderson (tb), Roney (ts/ss), Monty Alexander (p), Tom Barney (b), Steve Jordan (d), See Yuen (perc) and Sammy Figueroa (congas).

Been Down This Road Before—Anderson (tb), Andy Bey (vcl), Peter Bernstein (g), John F. Adams (fender rhodes, org), Tom Barney (b), Jordan (d) and Mala Waldron and Angela Workman (background vcls).

Until We Meet Again—Anderson (tb), Bernstein (g), Tadataka Unno (p), Buster Williams (b), Jordan (d), See Yuen (perc) and Waldron, Workman, Adams and See Yuen (bckgrnd vcls).

Clifton's trombone tones come from the soul. His lines are powdery and determined, with an optimistic yearning and celebration of the possible. And now, with a changing country and world upon us and a vaccine in sight, these songs take on new meaning. They are expressions flavored with hope and humanity.

JazzWax tracks: You'll find Clifton Anderson's Been Down This Road Before here or here.

JazzWax clips: Here's the title track, with singer Andy Bey...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.

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