When he was just seven years old he got his first trombone, a gift from his famous uncle Sonny Rollins. Clifton attended the prestigious Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music and Art. In 1974 he spent one year at The State University of New York at Stony Brook studying under Simon Karasick and Dave Schechter. He continued his education at the Manhattan School of Music, and graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor of Music degree. At The Manhattan School, he studied under the Metropolitan Opera trombonist John Clark.
There he also met and befriended talented musicians like Angela Bofill and the late Kenny Kirkland. Clifton has worked with a “who’s who” of diverse musical giants: from Frank Foster, McCoy Tyner, Clifford Jordan, Stevie Wonder, Dizzy Gillespie, Merv Griffin and The Mighty Sparrow to Lester Bowie, Paul Simon, Muhal Richard Abrams, WyClef Jean, and Dionne Warwick among others. Clifton’s credits also include the Broadway shows Dreamgirls and Nine. In 1983 Clifton got the call to join his uncle, Sonny Rollins. From that time to the present he has been a member of Sonny’s group and has toured extensively with him, performing throughout Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, Canada and of course the United States. Clifton has also appeared on ten Sonny Rollins recordings.
In 2005 Clifton worked on the production of the Sonny Rollins Without a Song: The 911 Concert CD. Since then Clifton has produced four releases for Sonny’s label Doxy Records: Sonny, Please, the DVD Sonny Rollins in Vienne, Road Shows Vol. 1, and Clifton’s own Decade. Along with managing the Doxy label, Clifton also runs OLEO,LLC, Sonny’s merchandising company.
Between his duties as a musician, producer and administrator Clifton has taught privately and in academia. He was an artist in residence at Duke University from 1999 to 2001. At the end of 2007 Clifton went back into the studio as a leader to produce the highly anticipated Decade, his first recording in approximately ten years, released on Doxy Records and distributed by the Universal Music Group. Decade was released in January, 2009 to enthusiastic reviews. In JazzWax, Marc Myers wrote that Clifton “…shines as a stylist and storyteller. .
. . On Decade, Anderson demonstrates a new level of maturity and offers a warm, round and purposeful sound. .
. . But the big news is that Anderson is a savvy writer. .
. . [His] compositions are all strong and fresh, and they avoid being derivative. Best of all, they are tailor made to show off the trombonist’s lyricism and powerful chops.
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