DK Anderson, tenor saxophonist

Altoona Mirror

One newcomer to the festival is D.K. Anderson of Pittsburgh and his new Cypher band. While considered a jazz group, they don’t play typical jazz music.

“We’re like a gateway for people who aren’t diehard jazz fans,” Anderson said.

Ever-evolving himself, Anderson was influenced by John Coltrane and other jazz greats growing up in Monessen, 30 miles south of Pittsburgh on the Monongahela River, in a family of music lovers. He picked up a tenor saxophone in fourth grade and later taught himself to play the piano so he could create “this whole set of music”for a video game he and his friends created.

“I didn’t know the theory behind (the music), but I always liked it,” he said. And from that, he learned how to compose.

He graduated from Duquesne University School of Music and studied for a time with Sean Jones of the Lincoln Center Jazz Band.

Anderson premiered his first work for big band at Pittsburgh’s Mellon Winterfest Jazz Festival in 2001. He played saxophone with the Roger Humphries Big Band for six years and then with Pittsburgh’s Boogie Hustlers, which is on slate at the Flood City Music Festival.

Anderson toured all over the East Coast and at hometown gigs in Pittsburgh with different bands. But 10 years ago, he stepped away from performing.

“Everything was like, I don’t want to say monotonous, but you’d know exactly what you’d hear in every situation. Even being on the road … became predictable,” he said.

Anderson immersed himself in the contemplation of music in an ascetic-like life in a small house in the woods of rural Ohio.

“I had never realized that the sounds that I was trying to make come from outside in nature already,” he said.

Anderson trained himself to recognize the musical chords of train whistles as the sound bounced through the valleys, and it started to affect the way he composed and related to music. He stepped back into the music scene in 2015, and started jamming and talking music with musicians from across different genres.

“Whenever I started playing again, I didn’t see all these huge divisions in music,” he said.

His original Cypher Band debuted at the Pittsburgh JazzLive Festival in 2016, and Anderson released his first album, “8th Window,” last November that included five original compositions and three covers, including Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression.”

The album “is like the eighth version of what could have happened” if jazz music hadn’t splintered so much in the 1960s and 1970s, he said. It received a positive review from “All About Jazz,” which said it “showcases (Anderson’s) mature style and superb musicianship.”

But he’s already re-made his band with members, including drummer Josh Williams, formerly of the regional blues and alternative band Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing, who is “very versatile and gifted,” Anderson said.

He also is writing music for another album, and he says Flood City Fest goers should not expect traditional jazz.

“I appreciate the classics, but I don’t necessarily want to perform them like they were originally,”he said. “They should expect what’s not predictable.”

All About Jazz

Saxophonist DK Anderson showcases his mature style and superb musicianship on his debut 8th Window. Leading his band Cypher, Anderson interprets, with passion and elegance, five of his heady originals and three covers including an intriguing take on rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix's classic "Manic Depression."
Anderson opens the latter tune with his fiery honking wails adding a spiritual edge to it. As bass and drums rumble guitarist Dave DiStefano embellishes the melody with resonant chords seamlessly transforming it to a jazz song. Anderson's improvisation is stirringly expressive and it stems right out of the simmering group performance. A quiet ambience permeates the concluding bars.
Anderson's own "Me 2 With U" has an infectious beat courtesy of bassist Paul Thompson and drummer Thomas Wendt. Anderson states the lilting theme with emotive eloquence and brassy tones. Shimmering notes and echoing strums mark DiStefano's suave solo. Anderson follows with introspective spontaneous musings. Trumpeter Rasheed Anderson, the leader's young brother, blows mellow and reverberating phrases as he takes his turn in the spotlight. His burnished horn infuses the track with a warm exuberance.
The intensely atmospheric piece "Double Vision" is evocative of a nocturne. Wendt's splashing cymbals, Thompson's lyrical bass and Anderson's lilting, undulating saxophone set the romantic mood. There is a lithe and easy flow to the ensemble play especially with Anderson switching to keyboards and DiStefano playing acerbic cluster of notes on his strings. A dramatic verbal conversation between Anderson and his wife, vocalist Diane Anderson, is quite cinematic even though it goes on a tad too long. This delightful album closes with a live duet of trombonist Juan Tizol's "Caravan" recorded at The Club Café in Pittsburgh. On this vibrant and energetic rendition of the standard Anderson blows with gusto and in stimulating circular lines. Drummer David Hamilton Jr engages Anderson in a thrilling, dissonant dialogue with his thundering polyrhythms.
DK Anderson demonstrates lot of promise as a composer and an instrumentalist on his first release as a leader. 8th Window is an engaging and highly enjoyable work that, despite a few rough edges, brims with soul and crackles with clever ideas.
Track Listing: Me 2 with U; Chrome; Manic Depression; Puzzle Dancing; Blackbelt Bass; Double Vision; Super Mario Bros Ground Theme; Caravan (Live).
Personnel: DK Anderson: tenor sax and keyboards; Paul Thompson:bass; Thomas Wendt:drums; Dave DiStefano: guitar; Rasheed Anderson: trumpet; Diane Anderson: vocals; David Hamilton Jr.:drums (8).

New Jazz Adds - WTJU

DK Anderson’s Cypher – 8th Window (Self-produced): DK Anderson made his first major jazz performances about 2003 and he has continued to be based in Pittsburgh. His is a unique style which he has broadened with the creation of Cypher. The group is a jamming style of band but with a soul and hard jazz base. There are very cool moments and some crazy outside moments during the set. Five of the compositions are Anderson originals which fall more into the jazz and soul jazz realm. They also perform a great spin on Jimi Hendrix’ “Manic Depression” and a totally outrageous take on “Caravan”. 

Pittsburgh City Paper

This week's MP3 Monday is a slow-burning jazz track from DK Anderson's Cypher. "Double Vision" is a good intro to the moody, abstract and unrushed style of his latest release, 8th Window, recorded at Mr. Smalls. It's a fantastic record, mixing challenging originals with covers including Jimi Hendrix and the Mario Bros. theme. No joke. Stream or download "Double Vision" below and keep up to date with their goings-on at their website

90.5 WESA

"..If you appreciate artists who push the boundaries you'll love hearing DK Anderson's Cypher obliterate boundaries. Backed by some of Pittsburgh's most recognizable jazz artists tenor saxophonist DK Anderson explores dynamic new approaches to both rock and jazz classics as well as making bold statements with original compositions. The cd "8th window" opens into interesting new territory."