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Bill Anschell Quartet featuring Brent Jensen

Bill Anschell at the piano

Part of Club Night Concerts

Thursday, April 6 from 5 p.m.-10:30 p.m.

Seattle native Bill Anschell returned to the Emerald City in 2002 after spending 25 years studying, composing, and performing across the country and around the world.

Anschell left Seattle after high school, studying for two years at Oberlin College (Ohio), then earning his Music Degree from Wesleyan University (Connecticut).  At Wesleyan, Anschell worked closely with saxophone great Bill Barron.  He also studied semi-privately with South Indian mrdangum master T Ranganathan, kindling a passion for rhythmic experimentation that has driven Anschell’s music ever since.

After leading the life of a jazz vagabond for several years, Anschell settled in Atlanta in 1989.  He was initially drawn there by the opportunity to serve as Jazz Coordinator for the Southern Arts Federation (SAF), the regional arts agency of the South.  Firing up SAF’s jazz department virtually from scratch, Anschell launched a host of high-profile programs, published a book on grantswriting, and created “JazzSouth,” an internationally syndicated radio show.  At night he dove headlong into the city’s thriving jazz scene, working as a sideman with various groups and leading his own trio.

By 1992, Anschell’s performing itinerary had grown to the point where it demanded his full attention.  He left the SAF post, continuing to produce “JazzSouth” out of his home while focusing on playing and composing.  Over the next ten years, Anschell ascended the jazz ranks in Atlanta, leading his trio at major festivals and becoming a first-call accompanist for visiting jazz greats.  His trio’s highlights included the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the Montreux Atlanta Festival and four extensive tours of South America.

During the same period, Anschell enjoyed a lengthy association with vocalist Nnenna Freelon, serving as her pianist, arranger and musical director. Among their many performing highlights were the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland, the Monterey Jazz Festival in California, the Kennedy Center in Washington, and six European tours.  Their concerts were broadcast on Radio France; French national television; and NPR’s “JazzSet.” Anschell’s piano work and arrangements were featured throughout Freelon’s 1996 Concord release Shaking Free, which was nominated for a Grammy as the year’s best jazz vocal recording.

Anschell was the featured artist in the December, 1997 issue of Jazz Player magazine, which included a “play-along” CD of his original music.  His own CDs have earned critical acclaim and widespread exposure, with the last three discs all making Jazzweek’s national “Top 50” chart for radio airplay.  Anschell’s 1998 release, a different note all together, was selected by United Press International (UPI) as one of the “10 Best” jazz releases of the year.  His 2006 CD, More to the Ear than Meets the Eye, was chosen by numerous critics and radio stations across the country for their “10 Best of 2006” lists.  His 2009 duo CD of spontaneous improvisations with saxophonist Brent Jensen was described by Cadence as “startlingly beautiful, surprising, and powerful…a transforming experience.”

Anschell has played and/or recorded with a host of jazz greats including Richard Davis, Ron Carter, Benny Golsen and Russell Malone.  In 2001, he was selected by the American Composers Forum for its “Composer-in-the-Schools” program; his residency included a commissioned piece for chamber orchestra. The same year, his piano work was featured in the soundtrack of the PBS movie, “Old Settler.” Since 2003, Anschell’s original compositions have received widespread cable and network exposure, appearing on programs including NBC’s “The West Wing” and HBO’s acclaimed series “The Wire.”

As a Seattleite, Anschell had the honor of playing a weekly gig with Northwest jazz legend Floyd Standifer for the final two years before his passing.  In 2005, Anschell received a Golden Ear Award as the “Northwest Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year,” and in 2006 his trio was named the “Best Northwest Acoustic Jazz Ensemble.”  In 2010 and 2011 Anschell again was named “Northwest Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year,” and his solo piano CD “Figments” was named 2011’s “Northwest Jazz Recording of the Year.” Golden Ears are administered by Earshot Jazz based on open voting by the Seattle jazz community. In 2008, Anschell’s Atlanta trio reunited for a fifth South American tour, visiting the Colombian cities of Medellin, Pereira and Manizales. In 2012, Anschell took a Seattle trio to Peru for his fourth tour of the country.

Brent JensenIn 1986-87, Brent Jensen studied in New York City with jazz legend Lee Konitz on a grant from the Idaho Commission on the Arts. He was a featured winner of the “Woodwinds on Fire” international talent search conducted by Jazziz magazine (August 1996). Brent has performed with a wide variety of jazz artists including Gene Harris, Bobby Shew, Bill Anschell, Jeff Johnson, John Bishop, Gary Foster, Dave Peck, Joe LaBarbera, John Clayton, Wycliffe Gordon, Warren Vache, Curtis Stigers, John Stowell, Matt Jorgensen, Thomas Marriott, Jeff Baker, Kristin Korb, Jamie Findlay, Duck Baker, Dianne Schuur and many others. His recording, “The Sound of a Dry Martini: Remembering Paul Desmond” on Origin Records, charted at the number 1 position on jazz radio stations across the country. “Dry Martini” was also featured on JazzWeek’s Top 100 and NPR’s JazzWorks’ Top 25 lists for the year 2002. “Stay Cool”, Brent’s second release on Origin made Jim Wilke’s (host of “Jazz After Hours”) “Favorite Jazz CDs of 2002” list. His fifth release on Origin is “One More Mile” featuring Seattle musicians Bill Anschell (piano), Jeff Johnson (bass) and John Bishop (drums). That disc was named one of Jim Wilke’s “Favorite Jazz CDs of 2007” and made Tom Hull’s (writer for “Village Voice” magazine) “Top 50 Jazz CDs of 2007” list. Brent’s duo recording (“We Couldn’t Agree More”) with Seattle pianist Bill Anschell was named a 2009 “Critic’s Choice” pick by “Jazziz” magazine and one of the “Best Northwest Jazz CDs of 2009” by Jim Wilke. His 2011 recording, “Humble Origins” (with the jazz quartet “Wellstone Conspiracy”) was named one of the “Best Northwest Jazz CDs of 2011” by Jim Wilke.  Brent’s most recent CD, “Blueprints” (w/pianist Bill Anschell & bassist Chris Symer) was named one of the “Best Northwest Jazz CDs of 2012” by Jim Wilke and one of the “Top 10 Jazz CDs of 2012” by “JazzTimes” magazine contributor Chris Heim.  Brent Jensen’s recordings are available on iTunes and at all the major online music outlets (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) and at the Origin Records website ( Brent Jensen is an Assistant Professor of Music at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.