On a stop on their U.S. tour, acclaimed 30-year-old jazz saxophone and clarinet virtuosos Peter and Will Anderson, identical twins, will be swinging at the Southampton Performing Arts Center on June 2, once again demonstrating why they continue to garner spectacular reviews from mainstream media, fellow artists, and music critics.
Juilliard-trained masters of the American Song Book and bop, the brothers perform and arrange all manner and degrees of jazz — the standards and their own compositions. Over the years, the brothers have also learned how to “play” their audiences with showmanship and charm.
Oh, the places they’ve been, the meccas they’ve played — clubs, universities, concert halls —including The Blue Note, Lincoln Center, Smalls, The Village Vanguard, 59E59, and The Kennedy Center, not to mention major jazz festivals in over 40 states, and tours in Japan. The accolades keep coming: they just picked up a prestigious Bistro Award for 2018 for “outstanding performances” and for doing “something special” in their music field.
They’re young, but they started young. They were nine and living in Washington, D.C. with their parents, who obviously noticed their unusual proclivities and encouraged them.
Where most other kids might listen to, love, and even play more age-appropriate funk, the Andersons were given recordings of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong. And when they were 14, their parents took them to The Village Vanguard in New York, where they heard the late greats Cedar Walton (piano, drums) and Jackie McLean (alto sax).
They knew immediately that kind of music was what they “wanted to do for the rest of our lives,” they said. Actually, their connection to jazz began even earlier, “when we were in the third grade watching a Chips Ahoy TV commercial . . . and the soundtrack of Benny Goodman’s ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ came on.”
Soon after, they found inspiration listening to Ellington, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Billy Strayhorn — unusual, to say the least, for adolescents, given not only the sophistication of the music, but the accompanying lyrics.
New York beckoned and they bit, attending Juilliard together and studying with the legendary saxophonist Joe Temperley, who had played with Ellington, Woody Herman, and Buddy Rich. Today, they are pleased to count among their inspirational friends Wynton Marsalis, who heads the jazz programs at Lincoln Center.
Of course, one question is inevitable because the Andersons are identical twins who play the same instruments. Can audiences tell them apart?
Some people, the brothers note, can indeed. Peter tends to play tenor sax and clarinet; Will, alto sax, clarinet, and flute. And Peter is right handed; Will left. Both brothers live in Manhattan, when they’re not adhering to an insanely busy travel schedule. Peter is married, Will, single, and neither has kids.
What they share, though, what they’ve always shared, is passion for America’s unique contribution to the world of music: jazz.
Although their appearance at the Southampton Performing Arts Center on June 2 will feature pieces from the American Song Book, Will and Peter will offer little known pieces as well by Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter, Jimmy Van Heusen, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and Hoagy Carmichael, because they want audiences to appreciate a composer’s style, which isn’t necessarily gleaned from the more familiar tunes.
Ellington, for example, evolved over the years, moving from recognizable traditional works to some truly “modern avant garde” classical — symphonies, opera.
Their upcoming SHPAC engagement delights them because they love the East End, first performing out here at Guild Hall in 2014. They find the audiences out here “very savvy” and they’ve made “many friends . . . and connected with many jazz enthusiasts,” they said.
Among those, count drummer and jazz series organizer Claes Brondal, of Sag Harbor Bay Burger fame, who will join the Andersons on stage along with some old Juilliard buddies, Tom McEvoy on piano and Clovis Nicolas on bass.
They last played with Brondal at Bay Burger in 2016, and at SHPAC in 2017. Of course, East End jazz lovers who have been dropping in at Bay Burger on Thursdays at 7 PM know what to expect — some of the smoothest sounds and most startling subtle rhythms and harmonies they’ll ever hear.
Expectations notwithstanding, humming’s not only not advised, it’s not even possible, given Peter and Will’s dazzling, surprising arrangements. The show will preview their month-long appearance in August at Symphony Space in the city, but you can hear it all here first.
Live from SHPAC: Peter & Will Anderson. 25 Job’s Lane. Saturday, June 2, 7 PM. Reservations a must. The performance will be preceded by a complimentary sangria and small bites half hour, courtesy Union Cantina. $20. Visit www. southamptonartscenter.org/event for info. For more on the Andersons, see www.peterandwillanderson.com.