Clifton Anderson (born October 5, 1957, Harlem, New York City) is an American jazz musician, a trombone player. He grew up surrounded by music. His father was a church organist /choir director, and his mother a singer and pianist. It was no surprise that Clifton exhibited an affinity for music at an early age. When he was just seven years old he got his first trombone, a gift from his famous uncle Sonny Rollins.
Clifton attended the prestigious Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music and Art. In 1974, he spent one year at the State University of New York at Stony Brook studying under Simon Karasick and Dave Schechter. He continued his education at the Manhattan School of Music, and graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor of Music degree.
While at Manhattan School of Music, Clifton began freelancing around New York City, making record dates and sitting in at clubs. He participated in jazz organizations like the Muse, the CBA Ensemble and later Barry Harris’s ensemble workshops on 8th Avenue. Clifton made his first record date with Carlos Garnett in 1976. By his senior year, at Manhattan he had established himself as one of the young “in demand” trombonists in New York.
When word went out that Slide Hampton was putting together a trombone choir, Janis Robinson (a fellow student of John Clark at Manhattan) recommended Clifton to Slide Hampton. The original “World of Trombones” was formed and included Janis Robinson, Steve Turre, Earl McIntyre, Clifford Adams, Doug Purviance, Papo Vazquez, and Clifton Anderson. Later additions to the prestigious trombone choir included Robin Eubanks, Clarence Banks, Frank Lacy, Conrad Herwig, and Bob Trowers. The “World of Trombones” gave Clifton the chance to play next to and learn from top veteran trombonists that occasionally joined the group like Benny Powell and Britt Woodman; however, J.J. Johnson remained Clifton’s greatest influence on the trombone. In 1979, Clifton got the chance to meet J.J. Johnson when Slide Hampton suggested he go with him to J.J.’s record date Pinnacles. “Meeting J.J. and watching him operate in the studio was an incredible experience I will never forget.”
The early 1980s found Clifton working with a “who’s who” of diverse musical giants: from Frank Foster, McCoy Tyner, Clifford Jordan, Stevie Wonder, Dizzy Gillespie, Merv Griffin and The Mighty Sparrow to Lester Bowie, Paul Simon, Muhal Richard Abrams, T. S. Monk and Dionne Warwick among others. During this period, Clifton also played on the Broadway shows, Dreamgirls and Nine.
In 1983, Clifton got the call to join his uncle, Sonny Rollins. From that time to the present, Clifton has been a member of Sonny’s group. He has toured extensively with him, performing throughout Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, Canada and of course the United States. Clifton has also appeared on ten Sonny Rollins recordings. In 2005, Clifton worked on the production of Sonny Rollins' album, Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert. Since then, Clifton has produced four releases for Sonny’s label Doxy Records: Sonny, Please; the DVD, Sonny Rollins in Vienne; Road Shows Vol. 1; and Clifton’s own Decade. Between 2006 and 2009 Clifton managed the Doxy label, and also ran OLEO, LLC, Sonny’s merchandising company.
Between his duties as a musician and an administrator, Clifton has taught privately and in academia. He was an artist in residence at Duke University from 1999 to 2001.
In 1997 Clifton released his first recording as a leader/producer on the Milestone label. Entitled Landmarks, it received critical acclaim internationally and made the top ten play lists on US Jazz radio. At the end of 2007 Clifton went back into the studio as a leader to produce Decade, his first recording in approximately ten years. The stellar reviews of Decade and Clifton’s live performances led to a nomination for 2009 “Trombonist Of The Year” from The American Jazz Journalists Association. At the end of 2009 Clifton left Sonny’s band to actively lead his own group full time. Clifton headed back into the studio in September 2011 to record and produce his third release as a leader, and so we carry on, with a stellar lineup of guest artists who also happen to be his friends. The featured friends -- pianist Monty Alexander, soprano saxophonist Kenny Garrett, bassist Bob Cranshaw, trumpeter Wallace Roney, percussionists Kimati Dinizulu and Victor See Yuen, and drummers Steve Jordan and Jeff “Tain” Watts – blended seamlessly with Clifton’s working band, tenor saxophonist Eric Wyatt, pianist Donald Vega, bassist Essiet Essiet and drummer Steve Williams, to create a musical blueprint for hope, renewal and carrying on. The highly anticipated recording immediately created a buzz among musicians. “With people increasingly faced with turmoil, uncertainty and crisis, I wanted to create music that uplifts the listener and offers a sense of hope to prevail”. and so we carry on was released on September 25, 2012, on Daywood Drive Records and distributed worldwide by BFM Digital. It is also available on Clifton Anderson's website: http://cliftonanderson.biz/clifton-store.html
- 1995: Landmarks (Milestone Records)
- 2008: Decade (Universal/Doxy)
- 2012: And So We Carry On (Daywood Drive)
With Geri Allen
- The Life of a Song (Telarc, 2004)
With Sonny Rollins
- Global Warming
- Falling in Love with Jazz
- Dancing in the Dark (album)
- G-Man (album)
- Sunny Days, Starry Nights
- Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert
- This Is What I Do
- Sonny, Please