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The mark of a great artist has always been to go beyond technical

excellence and impart a personal vision – a sense of style and

self-expression that is indelibly his own.  Among modern jazz musicians, no

one rises to that standard more than trombonist Ray Anderson, whose sublime

mastery of the tricks of his trade is equalled by the bountiful spirit he

pours into his one-of-a-kind sound.


The man who wrote If I Ever Had a Home It Was a Slide Trombone“, one

of his many original compositions, has inhabited every nook and cranny of his

horn.  Described by critic Gary Giddins as  „one of the most compellingly

original trombonists“, he is by turns a supremely lyrical player and bold

texturalist, a warmly natural-sounding soloist and footloose innovator.

Broadening the trombone’s sonic scope with his extended techniques,

brilliantly unconventional use of the plunger mute and demonstrative

vocal-like tones, he played a major role in reawakening interest in the

instrument in the ’80s.


Named five straight years as best trombonist in the Down Beat Critics

Poll and declared „the most exciting slide brass player of his generation“

by the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, Anderson has shown remarkable range.  He

has led or co-led a daunting assortment of tradition-minded and experimental

groups, big bands, blues and funk projects and even a trombone quartet.  In

the tradition of Louis Armstrong, he is a colorful and exuberant performer

and a spirited vocalist who induces smiles with his unusual split tones and

screech effects.


A native of Chicago’s Hyde Park, where he was born in 1952, Anderson is

the son of theologians.  He took up the trombone in fourth grade, influenced

by his father’s Dixieland recordings.  „The sound of the trombone was

appealing to me“, he says.  „All the people I heard play it sounded like

they were having fun.“  (The artists he strongly responded to, he later

learned, included ‚bone greats Vic Dickenson and Trummy Young.)


Anderson attended the University of Chicago Lab School, where one of his

classmates was another notable trombone original, George Lewis.  His teachers

included Frank Tirro, who went on to become dean of Yale’s music school, and

Dean Hey, who introduced young Ray to musicians as diverse as John Cage and

Archie Shepp.  As teenagers, he and Lewis were exposed to the exploratory

sounds of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, with

whose illustrious members Anderson later played extensively.  At the same

time, he had his head turned by the popular, groundbreaking sounds of James

Brown, Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix.


He played in R&B bands while attending college in Minnesota and Los

Angeles and funk and Latin bands while living in San Francisco.  On the West

Coast, he also hooked up with three standout members of its progressive jazz

community, tenor saxophonist David Murray and drummers Charles Moffett and

Stanley Crouch (now a leading critic, newspaper columnist and author).


In 1973, Anderson moved to New York.  He studied and played with the

eminent reed player, composer and music theorist Jimmy Giuffre, joined

drummer Barry Altschul’s free-form trio and played for three years with the

quartet of AACM saxophone hero Anthony Braxton.  In the ’80s, he garnered

attention with collective bands including the funk-oriented Slickaphonics and

the trio BassDrumBone, featuring bassist Mark Helias and drummer Gerry

Hemingway.  On a series of acclaimed recordings, he has ranged from

Ellingtonia and jazz classics („Old Bottles, New Wine“ with Kenny Baron,

Cecil McBee and Dannie Richmond, is an album’s worth of them) to striking

originals including „Muddy & Willie“ (as in Chicago blues immortals Waters

and Dixon) and „Raven-a-Ning“ (a play on Thelonious Monk’s „Rhythm-a-Ning“

named after his son Raven).


The prolific Anderson also has demonstrated his special supportive

skills on a remarkably wide assortment of albums by Braxton, Murray, Charlie

Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, Dr. John, the George Gruntz Concert Jazz

Band, Luther Allison, Bennie Wallace, Henry Threadgill, Barbara Dennerlein,

John Scofield, Roscoe Mitchell, the New York Composers Orchestra, Sam Rivers‘

Rivbea Orchestra and others.  He also received a grant from the National

Endowment for the Arts for a series of solo trombone concerts.


While pushing his sound into the future, Anderson has frequently

returned to his early love of New Orleans music for inspiration.  Both his

partygoing Alligatory Band and second-line-to-the-max Pocket Brass Band,

featuring tuba great Bob Stewart, are rooted in the Crescent City.  „I feel

like a spiritual son of that city,“ he says.  „Some part of me lives down

there.  Dr. John, Professor Longhair, the whole thing grabs me.  You get

caught up in those rhythms, right at the crossroads of jazz and funk, and you

can’t quit them.“


Anderson also heads up the blues-dipped Lapis Lazuli Band, featuring

singer-organist (and old Chicago friend) Amina Claudine Myers, and

periodically reunites with Lewis, Gary Valente and Craig Harris in the

all-star trombone quartet, Slideride.


As revealed by composition titles  „Disguise the Limite“ ,  „The

Alligatory Abagua“, „The Gahtooze“ and „Snoo Tune“ (for his daughter

Anabel), the trombonist is unabashedly a good-time player.  But as frolicsome

as his act can get, he says,  „I most certainly don’t play joke music.  I’m

much too aware of the giant shoulders I’m standing on, all the great players

who have given so much to music, and the spiritual responsibility of the



„I do think humor is divine.  When human beings laugh or smile, they are

in a state of grace.  I insist on having fun when I play and if the band

enjoys itself, the audience does, too.  But music contains every feeling and

emotion; it“s ultimately an expression of love.  It’s the healing force of

the universe, as Albert Ayler said.  My music is about inclusion.  I always

want to bring everyone along on the trip.  I want to move people also.  I

once described the Pocket Brass Band as having one ear cocked to the thump of

the second line dancers‘ feet and the other tuned to the music of the

spheres.  That describes all my music.  I want to have it all.“