“True music must repeat the thought and inspirations of the people and the time. My people are Americans and my time is today,” George Gershwin once said.
Identical twins Peter and Will Anderson shared this quote at their concert at The Shedd on Friday, Nov. 11. The performance consisted entirely of music written by Gershwin, one of the most revered composers in jazz.
As a jazz studies graduate of Portland State University, I am familiar with several Gershwin tunes. “I Got Rhythm” is a standard in jazz study, and I sang “Summertime” for my senior recital. The moment I walked into The Shedd, I noticed that most people in the audience were quite a bit older than me. Yet, many of the performers seemed to be around my age. Even though most of Gershwin’s music was composed in the 1920s and 1930s, the music is timeless, and has passed down from several generations to the present.
The concert’s educational aspect was one of its defining aspects. Throughout the show, between several of the songs, a video explained Gershwin’s life, work, and what made him so revered as a composer, both in jazz and classical. It was a perfect way to show Gershwin fans and newcomers what made him and his music stand out.
The music and musicianship were all amazing. Besides Will (alto sax, flute, clarinet) and Peter Anderson (tenor sax, clarinet), the brothers were backed up by Randy Porter (piano), Garrett Baxter (bass) and Ken Mastrogiovanni (drums). Vocalist Siri Vik also joined them on several tunes. All of the members, except for Peter and Will Anderson, are from the Portland and Eugene areas, making this performance a showcase of local talent.
“I Got Rhythm” served as the opener. Starting with the rhythm section of Porter, Baxter and Mastrogiovanni, the Anderson Brothers eventually walked on stage to loud applause. Will Anderson appeared to be the leader, as he was cueing everyone when to come in for solos. Will’s alto sax and Peter’s tenor sax featured great harmonies throughout and was a strong opener for the concert. A funny moment featuring the song came later in the concert, when a video showed the Muppets playing “I Got Rhythm,” except, well, they didn’t. “I don’t got rhythm,” one of the Muppets sang, as the audience burst into laughter.
Other songs highlighted the group’s talents. “It Ain’t Necessarily So” featured a call and response format, with Will playing the clarinet melody and Peter answering with the tenor sax. “’S Wonderful” also featured great melodic interplay between the brothers. The band showed off their take on Rhapsody in Blue, a composition for orchestra that has elements of both classical and jazz, featuring a swinging drum groove by Mastrogiovanni and a classically influenced piano portion by Porter. This was a notable highlight of the show, and the audience cheered. Will then added, “We hope you enjoyed our version of the United Airlines theme song,” to the laughter of the audience.
Some of the best songs of the show, however, were the ones that featured Siri Vik, the Eugene-based vocalist. When she began with “Fascinating Rhythm,” her talent for singing swing music became clear. Her vocals were controlled, yet also exciting. She also showed her ability to sing slower tunes just as well with ballads such as “Someone to Watch Over Me,” which also featured a beautiful flute part from Will Anderson. To cap it all off, the band featured Vik on their last song, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” Vik’s powerful vocals were backed up by the Andersons’ alto and tenor sax playing, and featured a great drum solo by Mastrogiovanni. It was a fine ending to a powerful concert.
On July 11, 1937, George Gershwin died of a brain tumor at the age of 38. Despite his short life, his music remains influential today. The Anderson Brothers shared that influence to the audience on Friday. It was a show that pleased longtime Gershwin fans, and perhaps helped both him and the Anderson Brothers gain new ones in the process.