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HOLDREGE — To get an idea of what Doug Anderson’s concert at the Tassel on Saturday will be like, imagine walking to the Village Vanguard in New York City on a Sunday afternoon in the 1960s.
“I get together with two other guys to do a traditional jazz piano trio,” Anderson said in an interview at his office at a college outside of Boston. “We’ll be playing a lot of Bill Evans stuff, classic East Coast jazz piano music with a lot of improvisation. We (will) merge this with other songs that people will know. We are going to play a piece of David Bowie and the Beatles. Usually there is no voice.
The famed Greenwich Village club has hosted the biggest names in jazz, including Miles Davis, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk and regular Evans.
For Anderson, performing at Tassel feels like a homecoming. He grew up in Holdrege and studied at Hastings College for a year before heading to Berklee College of Music in Boston.
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After half a century, Anderson will return to Holdrege to perform at The Tassel at 7.30pm on Saturday.
“In the early ’70s, there were a lot of bands in Kearney,” Anderson said. “Back then it was bands like the Sunny Funny Company. I played in Gossamer Wings, there was Tucker’s August and I also played in Godfather. There was Still Rovin’ and the Salestrom brothers had their band, Timberline. There was a lot going on. »
The minute Anderson graduated from high school in 1971, he began playing in central Nebraska bands. He continued to act and perform while attending Hastings College.
“I had more gigs than there were days left at school,” he said.
One of Anderson’s closest friends and teammate died in a car accident, causing him to re-evaluate his goals.
“After he was killed, I thought if I wanted to do music, I had better get good at it,” Anderson said.
After attending a jazz festival in Kansas with Gary Burton, Anderson, then 23, chose the Berklee School of Music in Boston, where he immersed himself in jazz.
“The application was asking for a reason why I wanted to go to Berklee, and I didn’t realize what was being asked,” Anderson said. “It was like a college application essay, but I just wrote that my goal would be to perform and create music without starvation. That’s what got me in.
The Holdrege native learned what makes jazz such a dynamic art form.
“A jazz player listens differently than a classically trained player or even a rock ‘n’ roll musician,” Anderson said.
He noted that most jazz players don’t rehearse, and when they play they don’t look for mistakes to correct.
“They play together to listen to the possibilities to see where the music will go,” he said. “That’s a big part of it. As a gamer, you listen on so many levels. It’s not just the note you’re playing, it’s ‘Why is this guy playing with this type of color and how can I approach it? Am I going against it? Am I trying to support him? »
Another key — improvisation.
“It’s incredibly important,” Anderson said. “We don’t talk about improvisation as just a solo. Say you’re Jimmy Page and you’re playing something Led Zeppelin and all of a sudden it’s guitar solo time. It’s a form of improvisation, but in jazz, we also think of improvising the back lines and the feel of the melody. In jazz, you improvise on different levels. If you’re the pianist, you improvise around the drum solo.
All of these elements contribute to a classic piano-jazz trio.
Anderson currently teaches at Regis College near Boston. He regularly plays jazz and composes 20th century music.
Looking back on his musical foundation, Anderson pays homage to his teachers who guided him through Holdrege.
“I was lucky,” he said. “I was lucky because Holdrege was a great place to grow up. The teachers in the schools were really good. I had Mr. Strattman. He was not only my orchestra teacher, but once I got to seventh year he said he would give me piano lessons. I had my first jazz piano lessons with Mr. Strattman, and I continued to play throughout.
Anderson describes longtime Holdrege music instructor as more than a teacher.
“He was also a mentor,” Anderson said. “He was a very serious guy that I learned a lot from. It’s just amazing how much he knew.
Anderson told a story about the time his parents took him to see Strattman’s combo, the Four Keys, perform at a hotel in Kearney.
“I just kind of stayed in the back where the band was playing,” Anderson said. “Mr. Strattman knew I would be there. I was just blown away by the music. That night, I knew that was what I would do, make music. Afterwards he said to me, ‘ Doug, you know that drummer had a temperature of 101, but he’s still playing.’ And so I never missed a concert, no matter how sick I was, because of that night.
Although Anderson has only a few distant relatives in Holdrege, returning to play – having last played in the city in 1972 – seems like a big deal.
“I feel like I’m part of all these families that I still know at Holdrege,” he said.