Cat Anderson

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Cat Anderson
Cat Anderson, Aquarium, New York, N.Y., between 1946 and 1948 (William P. Gottlieb 00081).jpg
Anderson in New York, ca. 1947
Background information
Birth name William Alonzo Anderson
Also known as Cat Anderson
Born (1916-09-12)September 12, 1916
Greenville, South Carolina, U.S.
Died April 29, 1981(1981-04-29) (aged 64)
Norwalk, California, U.S.
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Trumpet
Years active 1930s–1970s
Labels Columbia, Inner City, Mercury, EMI
Associated acts Duke Ellington, Louie Bellson, Bill Berry, Apollo, Strand, Phillips, All Life, Unique Jazz, Parker

William Alonzo "Cat" Anderson (September 12, 1916 – April 29, 1981) was an American jazz trumpeter best known for his long period playing with Duke Ellington's orchestra, and for his extremely wide range (more than five octaves), especially his playing in the higher registers.[1]


Born in Greenville, South Carolina, Anderson lost both parents when he was four years old, and was sent to live at the Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston, where he learned to play trumpet. Classmates gave him the nickname "Cat" (which he used all his life) based on his fighting style. He toured and made his first recording with the Carolina Cotton Pickers, a small group based at the orphanage. After leaving the Cotton Pickers, Anderson played with guitarist Hartley Toots, Claude Hopkins' big band, Doc Wheeler's Sunset Orchestra (1938–1942), with whom he also recorded, Lucky Millinder, the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra, Sabby Lewis's Orchestra, and Lionel Hampton, with whom he recorded the classic "Flying Home No. 2".[2]

Anderson's career took off, however, in 1944, when he joined Duke Ellington's orchestra at the Earle Theater in Philadelphia. He quickly became a central part of Ellington's sound. Anderson was capable of playing in a number of jazz styles, but is best remembered as a high-note trumpeter. He had a big sound in all registers, but could play in the extreme high register (up to triple C) with great power (he was able to perform his high-note solos without a microphone, while other members of a big band were usually amplified for their solos). Wynton Marsalis has called him "one of the best ever" high note trumpeters.[3] More than just a high-note trumpeter, though, Anderson was also a master of half valve and plunger mute playing. He played with Ellington's band from 1944 to 1947, from 1950 to 1959, and from 1961 to 1971, with each break corresponding to a failed attempt to lead his own big band.

After 1971, Anderson settled in the Los Angeles area, where he continued to play studio sessions, to gig with local bands (including Louie Bellson's and Bill Berry's big bands), and occasionally to tour Europe. He died of cancer in 1981.[4]


From left: Louie Bellson, Cat Anderson, Clark Terry. At the Palomar Supper Club, April 19, 1952, with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Photo courtesy of the Fraser MacPherson estate.

33⅓ vinyl album format

  • A 'Chat' With Cat - Columbia FPX 259 (Published in Paris)
  • Cat Anderson in Paris - Inner City Records IC 1143 Recorded in Paris March 20, 1964
  • Cat Anderson Plays at 4 AM - emidisc C 048-50665 Recorded in Paris October 30, 1958
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Horn - Mercury MG 36142 Recorded in NYC August 23, 1958
  • Old Folks - All Life AL004 Recorded in Paris April 17, 1979
  • Cat Speaks - Classic Jazz CJ142 Recorded in Paris June 4, 1977
  • Ellingtonia - Cat Anderson and the Ellington All Stars - Strand SL 1050 Recorded Recorded 1962
  • Americans Swinging in Paris - EMI Music 5396582

78 rpm format

Featured on albums

  • Mingus Quintet Meets Cat Anderson - Unique Jazz UJ20 Recorded in Berlin November 5, 1972
  • A Flower is a Lovesome Thing - Ray Nance, Cat Anderson and the Ellington Alumni - Parker PLP827 Recorded 1959 for the Charlie Parker Label
  • Cat Anderson, Claude Bolling & Co. - Phillips B 77.731 - Recorded in Paris January 1965

Currently on CD format

  • Cat's in the Alley
  • Definitive Black and Blue Sessions
  • Plays WC Handy

A list of albums appearing on at[5]

As sideman[edit]

With Gene Ammons

With Lionel Hampton

With Johnny Hodges


  1. ^ Cook, Richard (2005). Richard Cook's Jazz Encyclopedia. London: Penguin Books. p. 13. ISBN 0-141-00646-3. 
  2. ^ Carr, Ian; Fairweather, Digby; Priestley, Brian; Alexander, Charles (2004). The Rough Guide to Jazz. Rough Guides. p. 17. ISBN 978-1843532569. 
  3. ^ Trumpet Kings. Dir. Burrill Crohn. Perf. Wynton Marsalis, Louis Armstrong, et al. Video Artists International, Inc., 1989. Videocassette.
  4. ^ "William Alonzo (Cat) Anderson, Trumpeter With Ellington, Dead". The New York Times. The Associated Press. 2 May 1981. 
  5. ^ "Cat Anderson Discography at Discogs". Retrieved 2012-03-21. 

External links[edit]