DK Anderson


We must take as truth the music of the tenor saxophonist DK Anderson is all about the “pursuit of possibilities”, but be warned, you may be surprised by the extent of both his “pursuit” in both the repertoire as well as in how far he and his musicians – especially his wife and vocalist Diane Anderson – actually do go. Quantum Truth, as the album is appropriately titled has a number of surprises. Two of these are Thelonious Monk anthems; one being “Epistrophy” and the other being “Round Midnight”. On both, Mr Anderson not only takes on Mr Monk’s death defying harmonic conceptions (especially on the former); a challenge on any instrument. Mr Anderson, the saxophonist melds Mr Monk’s crackling melody with Charlie Rouse’s famous solo excursions, but also – quite magically – manages to invent a fabulously inverted rhythmic groove as well.

The album is worth every penny you spend for that tune alone. However, there is much more to recommend it. The aforementioned “Round Midnight”, for one, on which Mr Anderson’s work so articulate, so spare, so straight to the heart is ridiculously rare. Meanwhile the pursuit of “possibilities” is the stated intention and meaning of the title and there are few songs more revealing than Dave Frishberg’s “I’m Hip”, which may be remembered because of two iconic versions: Blossom Dearie’s and another by Bob Dorough. Diane Anderson’s version is to be placed at least on an equal footing as both those, if not a peg above either one. The reason? Miss Anderson brings to the song a kind of sensuality that no one (Frishberg included) could have imagined possible. She appears not only to have found something special in the song, but has also let that something speak to her in a manner that is uncommonly delicate. Moreover, few vocalists seem to have mastered their instrument and taken possession of it as Miss Anderson has, with echoes of the great Nancy King, one might add.

But make no mistake this is Mr Anderson’s moment in the sun. His suave, sometimes raspy and always sensuously breathy tone is reminiscent of the great tenors that have made Jazz music as irresistible as it is today; men like Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp and others. And while Mr Anderson has some way to go before he reaches that mythic state as his musical ancestors, he shows the kind of promise in the power and surety of his playing that is most likely to get him there eventually if he carries on pushing at hard at the boundaries of his music. His rhythm section is a mighty one and bassist Maria Castellon and the drummers Dave DiStefano and Kai Ballard, and guitarist Enzo Belli ought to stay along for the ride. Each of them certainly bolsters Mr Anderson’s artistry considerably so that this album has, for a start, cut a clear path en route to (very possibly) an epic journey.

Voodoo Child - Jimi Hendrix Information Management Institute

DK Anderson’s Cypher – 8th Window (DKC) “Manic Depression”      “For the 8th Window project, I was exploring non-traditional extended techniques,” Anderson explains. “I found a way to play the melody in the true natural harmonic series using overtones, which is different than the modern equally adjusted tuning one might visualize on a piano keyboard,” citing, “The sound was similar to Hendrix’s use of natural feedback which also doesn’t follow modern adjusted tuning.”      The project is an eclectic mix moving from cabaret to swing jazz to esoteric avant garde, allowing plenty of space in the original arrangements to let all of Cypher’s participants shine. While Anderson’s tenor sax is the lead, he also spends some time on electric keyboards, with guitarist David DiStefano also standing out in his jazz flavorings, even when he heads in a rock direction. At times, an Ornette Coleman meets a Barney Kessel between the two of them.       From the studio sessions, all are Anderson originals with the exception of their take of the Super Mario Brothers theme song and Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression”.       “I like ‘Manic Depression’ because you can hear Hendrix’s own blues influence in the song,” notes Anderson. What surprises us most about this recording is that it sounds as if Anderson is putting his sax through some type of modulation processing, but he explains, “The effect is completely natural without any electric effects. It’s a matter of purposely overshooting a note much in the same way a bugle with no keys can play taps and bugle calls. On saxophone It makes a natural distortion that allows other notes above and below to all sound at once.” Between Thomas Wendt’s flowing jazz percussion, Anderson’s lead breathily “honking” sax work and DiStefano’s gliding guitar garnishment; Cypher truly turns “Manic Depression” into a jazz classic. (2016) 

Pittsburgh City Paper.."moody, abstract and unrushed style"

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

Debbie Burke, Jazz Author

Funkin’ up T. Monk’s “Epistrophy” righteously, tenor sax player DK Anderson digs in deep and comes up with some shockingly fresh angles. It’s one of the tracks on his new CD “Quantum Truth,” an inventive collection of songs played on a different plane than the listener may be used to.

Take the standard “All The Things You Are”: in this version, DK and band look in different places for the “truth” on this tune; right out of the gate, it pierces the air with hot, bold drum work that’s a total surprise. DK’s tenor wails, explains, asserts and insists. “Lady Grinning Soul” is a suspenseful stew with a beautiful and dark side and DK plays with such texture that it feels inexplicably personal. A sexy, heavy guitar solo seems to come out of nowhere and reiterates its mystery.

As the truth shifts with different perspectives, so do these songs warrant multiple listens for full effect.

New Jazz Adds - WTJU.."very cool moments and some crazy outside moments"

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”. 

90.5 WESA.."opens into interesting new territory"

"..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."

Jazz Weekly

Tenor saxophonist and Rhodes keyboardist DK Anderson delivers a soulful stew of interpretations ranging from jazz to cool with a dash of Baby Boomer rock. He encircles himself with Maria Castellon/b, Dave DiStefano/g-dr, Diane Anderson/voc, Kai Ballard/dr and Enzo Belli/g, putting new paint on old fences. Diane Anderson gives a fun read to “I’m Hip” for starters, but a reggae take of Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy” is a great and gutsy call. The band goes bel canto for David Bowie’s “Lady Grinning Soul” with Anderson’s tenor nice and breathy on “’Round Midnight.” Belli and Castellon get fun and jivey on “Can You Dig It” and some Soul Train hipness goes down right on “All The Things You Are.” Jazz is definitely a verb on this release!

Midwest Records

DK ANDERSON/Quantum Truth: A sax man that went on sort of a Sonny Rollins hejira by living in a small house in a remote area of Pennsylvania has come roaring back to New York with a funky take on a lot of jazz history that all comes together in fine style. With like minded pals that feel what he's up to, this is a snazzy set that crosses a few lines but ties it all together nicely as it makes it's way back. Solid stuff well worth checking out. 

All About Jazz.."improvisation is stirringly expressive"

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).

Altoona Mirror.."gateway for people who aren’t diehard jazz fans"

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.”