Clifton Anderson was born on October 5, 1957 in Harlem, New York City. 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 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. At The Manhattan School, he studied under the renowned 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 and 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. It was around that time that Slide Hampton formed the original World of Trombones, the group that would become the standard by which all jazz trombone choirs were measured. The group included Janice Robinson, Steve Turre, Earl McIntyre, Clifford Adams, Doug Purviance, Papo Vazquez, and Clifton along with residencies from Curtis Fuller, Britt Woodman and Benny Powell. Later additions to the prestigious trombone choir included Robin Eubanks, Clarence Banks, Frank Lacy, Conrad Herwig, Bob Trowers Garfield Fobbs and Malion Walker.
Clifton has worked 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, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Paul Simon, Terumasa Hino, Keith Richards, Muhal Richard Abrams, WyClef Jean, Geri Allen, T.S. Monk, Charlie Haden, Slide Hampton and Wallace Roney among others.
In 1983 Clifton got the call to join his uncles group. He worked with Sonny Rollins touring worldwide and appeared on ten of Sonny’s recordings through 2009. Clifton’s work with Sonny incorporated not only performing but also producing four releases for Sonny’s Doxy Records label: The CD’s “Sonny, Please”, “Road Shows Vol. 1”, Clifton’s own “Decade” and “Sonny Rollins in Vienne” (DVD). In addition his production work can be heard on the Grammy Nominated “Without A Song / 911 Concert” CD, while also managing Sonny’s OLEO merchandise company and DOXY record label.
In 1997 Clifton released his first recording as a leader/producer on the Milestone label entitled Landmarks. Landmarks 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 coupled with Clifton’s live performances led to a nomination in 2009 for “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. He headed back into the studio in September 2011 to record and produce his third release as a leader - “And So We Carry On”. The highly anticipated recording was released September 25th 2012 with worldwide distribution and immediately created a buzz among musicians. Embraced by critics and fans “And So We Carry On” reached #4 on jazz radio and remained in the top 20 for several months. It’s been called “A Modern Jazz Essential” and was picked as “One Of The Top CD Releases of 2012” by Jazz Inside Magazine. “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”. The stellar lineup includes some of Clifton’s favorite musical friends and features pianists Monty Alexander and Donald Vega; bassists Essiet Essiet and Bob Cranshaw; drummers Steve Jordan, Jeff “Tain” Watts and Steve Williams; saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Eric Wyatt; trumpeter Wallace Roney and percussionists Kimati Dinizulu and Victor See Yuen. They all came together to create “a musical blueprint for hope, renewal and carrying on”.
Clifton is currently in the process of producing his latest recording -“Been Down This Road Before”. The new release will include tributes to bass legend Bob Cranshaw, African percussionist Kimati Dinizulu, Clifton’s sister Vallyn Anderson and his uncle Sonny. Been Down This Road Before spotlights the redundancy of human nature from generation to generation. From all accounts “Been Down This Road Before” is the formidable successor to “And So We Carry On”. Look for its release in the spring of 2020.