INTERVIEW: Twins Peter, Will Anderson journey through Great American Songbook at 59E59

From left, Peter Anderson, Clovis Nicolas and Will Anderson perform in Songbook Summit at 59E59 Theaters. Photo courtesy of Lynn Redmile.

Peter and Will Anderson are identical twins with a knack for reinterpreting some of the best tunes from the Great American Songbook. Their talents on saxophone, clarinet and flute will be on full display at 59E59 Theaters in Midtown Manhattan with the show Songbook Summit, running through Aug. 27.

Each week during the month of August, the brothers will offer new songs from some classic composers. Included among the list are Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers. Audiences can expect to hear such memorable songs as “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “I’ve Got the World on a String,” “Stormy Weather,” “Rhapsody in Blue” and “My Funny Valentine.”

Peter Anderson plays tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone and clarinet, while his brother holds down the fort on alto saxophone, clarinet and flute. They will also be joined by Molly Ryan on vocals, Jeb Patton on piano, Clovis Nicolas on bass and Phil Stewart on drums.

Recently, Hollywood Soapbox exchanged emails with the Anderson brothers. Questions and answers have been slightly edited for style.

When did you first fall in love with the Great American Songbook?

In elementary school, we started listening to jazz recordings by Benny Goodman, Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie. All of these artists are master interpreters of the American Songbook repertoire. Since we’ve moved to New York City, we’ve had many mentors and idols who have fostered our love for these songs, including Vince Giordano, Frank Wess, James Moody, Jimmy Heath, Joe Wilder, Bob Wilber,and our longtime mentor saxophonist Joe Temperley.

How did you settle on these particular composers? Was it difficult to select only these?

We decided to focus on four American Songbook composers for this show run. It was very difficult to narrow down the choices, but, Porter, Arlen, Gershwin,and Rodgers stand out to us. They were all extremely prolific, heavily involved with Broadway shows and Hollywood films, and each have their own distinct style. Each composer’s breadth of work is fascinating!

Is it difficult to rehearse all of these songs? Are any of them going to be performed by you for the first time?

We will have quite a bit material to rehearse, and yes, some of them we will be performing for the first time — exciting!

What’s it like working with Molly Ryan?

Molly Ryan is fantastic! We’ve worked with her often over the years. Molly is a joy to work with, and she’s excited to make her 59E59 debut.

How early did you get into saxophones, clarinets and flutes? Did you try a lot of instruments before settling on these?

When we were in elementary school, there was a Chips Ahoy cookies TV commercial with the soundtrack of Benny Goodman’s ‘Sing, Sing, Sing.’ We were hooked on jazz — and cookies. We both started playing the clarinet at age 9 in our Maryland public elementary school fourth grade music program and added the saxophone a year later. Later in high school, we started playing the flute and piano.

What do you like the most about performing at 59E59?

We’ve lead over 125 shows at 59E59 and are always impressed by the musical expertise and genuine love for jazz by the audience. We love chatting at the E:Bar after the show and meeting new people. It’s a very classy community of arts lovers!

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Songbook Summit, featuring Peter and Will Anderson, is currently playing at 59E59 Theaters in Midtown Manhattan. Click here for more information and tickets.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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