Fundraiser for Roswell’s Jazz Festival brings in twin talents of Peter and Will Anderson
By Christina Stock
In honor of Jazz Appreciation Month, the Roswell Jazz Festival spring fundraiser features The Anderson Twins — Peter and Will Anderson — at Pecos Flavors Winery + Bistro, 412 W. Second St., on April 5 at 7 p.m.
“The Anderson Twins have been playing in Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis,” RJF artistic director Michael Francis said. “They are very, very good. They’re twin brothers and they’re both reed players, clarinet and saxophone and flute, as well.
“I found out about them through my friend, Margaret Gillham over at Odessa, who runs the Odessa Jazz Party,” Francis said. “She’s been telling me about them and I got to listen to them. These guys are world class. They are some of the most accomplished musicians that we’ve brought in. I am excited about it, it’s going to be great. And they are young — if we can encourage the youth, it would be great.
“It just so happens that they are playing in Odessa that week, so we are catching them at a good time when they are doing a concert in Santa Fe. They have to come through here, so I figured let’s do it and they gave us a reasonable rate,” Francis said.
In a phone interview, Peter Anderson talked about his and his brother’s background. “I and my brother, Will, grew up in Washington D.C.,” he said. “From an early age, we were hooked on jazz. Our instruments are the clarinet and the saxophone. From an early age, we were listening to the music of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and all the great jazz musicians that we had to draw from.
“We don’t really come from a musical family, but our parents were very supportive. We showed an early interest into music. I am not really sure where it came from. I will say, me and my brother are twins and music, and jazz, in particular, is something rewarding and fun that we could do together. In jazz, there is an element of improvisation and individuality. Even from an early age, we played together and we learned from each other. That’s the way music should be learned, directly from other musicians and from hearing it in person. That’s why I think it was a good fit for us,” Anderson said.
Asked how they picked their instruments of choice, Anderson said, “We started on the clarinet at age 9. And at that age, you are not big enough to hold a saxophone, so you have to grow on the clarinet — it’s more of a beginner’s instrument. And when you get bigger, you can pick up the saxophone and we were both just gravitating toward it. I am not sure why — I am gathering it was the sound and the nuance, and the feeling. All the different sounds and feeling and emotions that can come out of the instrument I think really drew us to it.”
Anderson said that he and his brother decided fairly early, in high school, to become professional musicians.
“If music hadn’t been in our public school, in our curriculum, I don’t think we would have been able to continue music,” Anderson said. “We had a jazz band around middle school and high school. When it came time to apply for college, we knew we wanted to keep on playing jazz, and we wanted to come to New York because that’s where all the best music is.”
The twins were accepted at The Juilliard School in New York City and from there, their career took off. They have performed with Cecile McLorin Salvant, Paquito D’Rivera, Wynton Marsalis, Frank Vignola, and they can be heard on the 2014 Grammy-winning soundtrack of HBO’s TV show “Boardwalk Empire” with Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks. They’ve headlined at The Blue Note, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, New Orleans Jazz Festival and a multitude of other jazz festivals. They have performed in more than 40 U.S. states, throughout Brazil, Japan, the United Kingdom and six times in New York City’s famed Highlights in Jazz series, alongside Lou Donaldson, Jimmy Heath, Ken Peplowski, Steve Turre, Warren Vache and Jimmy Cobb.
Peter and Will Anderson received a 2014 Drama Desk nomination for their Off-Broadway Production, “Le Jazz Hot” (one of seven productions at 59E59 Theaters), and in 2018, they were Bistro Award winners. Their 2014 album, Deja Vu, was called “a burner that reveals the band’s cohesiveness and spirit” (JazzTimes). Last year, the Andersons raised $25,000 to establish the Joe Temperley Juilliard Student Scholarship Fund and tribute album in honor of their late great saxophone mentor. The twins are teaching artists through Juilliard’s Nord-Anglia program, conducting school workshops in Orlando, Charlotte, Washington D.C. and Chicago. They’ve lectured at over 100 high schools countrywide and universities including Michigan State, Ohio State, Florida State, Temple, Xavier, Scranton, South Florida, Lenoir-Rhyne, Central Oklahoma, Jacksonville and in Nagasaki, Japan.
Asked if they had performed in New Mexico before, Peter Anderson said, “We’ve actually never been in Roswell before, but we performed in New Mexico many times — in Albuquerque, in Taos and Gallup.”
They had known about the Roswell Jazz Festival. “All the great jazz musicians are here in New York and there are many of them — Chuck Redd, Ken Peplowski and Harry Allen — every year these musicians go to Roswell, so we’ve been hearing about it for several years, and this year is the first time for us to come and meet the people involved.”
Asked what the audience can expect of their performance in Roswell, he said, “We do have a large repertoire that we draw from. We love the music from Duke Ellington and American composers like George Gershwin and Cole Porter and Irwin Berlin and jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker. We have a pretty large repertoire to draw from, but generally the American songbook, tunes from Broadway and the great songs from jazz history like Count Basey and songs that were sung by Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Those are our medium. We do compose, too, so we have some original music and we do like to incorporate some classical music into our program as well.
“Like Duke Ellington said, ‘There’s only two kinds of music: Good music and then there’s the other kind.’ So we don’t draw any lines between, if it’s not jazz, it can still be good music. And if it is jazz, it can still be ‘the other kind.’ So, jazz is our medium, but we definitely welcome all other influences into it,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be my brother and I on woodwinds, flute, clarinet and saxophone and we have a guitarist — his name is Felix Lemerle. He’s a native Parisian from France. We’ve been performing with him for several years. We love it. We look forward to visiting Roswell.”
While the concert is the highlight of the evening, Francis has other events planned.
“We are doing something different this year. Bob Entrup — he is a personality, an MC type,” Francis said. “On the intermission, which will be 15 to 20 minutes, he’s going to do a live auction for four to five high-end items. People will be bidding, the rest of them will be in the bistro part of Pecos Flavors. All the items will be around the walls.
“We’ve got a new scholarship program whereas people have contributed to a scholarship fund to send two high school or middle school, two local Roswell music students, to the North Texas State Jazz Camp. That jazz camp is very highly acclaimed; it’s a really fine scholarship. We are going to announce that and award that this year,” Francis said.
To apply for the scholarship, applicants need to contact the RJF executive board. “We will be announcing auditions. They’ll be all on one day, like a Saturday afternoon. Then the judges will decide. They have to fill out some forms. But we want to do that to encourage kids, because when we go out and do our outreach, the audiences are just young kids and they are really responsive to the jazz. And then when you go away, they forget about it. They are busy. But we are trying to get them into our loop. That’s one of our most important priorities that we have,” Francis said.
Tickets are not available at the winery, but at roswelljazz.org or at Stellar Coffee Co., 315 N. Main St. Reservations are not accepted — it is on a first-come-first-serve basis. Doors open at 6 p.m. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 505-359-4876.