Clifton Anderson

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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.[1]



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.

At The Manhattan School, he studied under the Metropolitan Opera trombonist John Clark. There he also met and befriended talented musicians like Angela Bofill and the late Kenny Kirkland.

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 the late great 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.”[citation needed]

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. Along with managing the Doxy label, Clifton also runs 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, entitled Landmarks. Landmarks received critical acclaim internationally and made the top ten play lists on jazz radio coast to coast. At the end of 2007, Clifton went back into the studio as a leader to produce the highly anticipated Decade, his first recording in ten years. Decade will be available in the US in January 2009.


As leader

As sideman

With Sonny Rollins