The steadfast soul in her voice and her tricky way with rhythm—her ability to glide ahead or hang back a beat without losing musical direction—should have been an indication that Anderson would always find a way to land on her feet throughout the ups and downs of her life. Born in Houston, Texas, in 1928, she moved to Seattle in 1944 and got her start on the R & B circuit before becoming a jazz singer par excellence in the ’50s, working variously with Lionel Hampton’s band, Ray Charles, and others. A tour of Sweden led to a recording contract in America and a period during which she was hailed by Time magazine as “perhaps the best-kept jazz secret in the land.” Work dried up Stateside during the ’60s, but Anderson headed to Europe and sang steadily for the next decade. She’d launched her career again in the U.S. by the mid-’70s, once more attracting collaborations with musical greats like pianist George Shearing as well as her own formidable quartet. She garnered four Grammy nominations and, importantly, everlasting respect from the community: Learning that Anderson faced foreclosure on her Central District home earlier this year, the fans—including fellow Garfield High alum Quincy Jones—rallied with donations. It was a deserving tribute to a talent of inestimable worth. —Gillian G. Gaar
Because of her… The Emerald City became a fitting kingdom for a bona fide jazz queen.
Now hear this: Anderson’s authoritative bounce and brio turn “Never Make Your Move Too Soon,” from the album of the same name, into a classic.
Clarence Acox Jr.
“It started off as me coming out to start a marching band during the football season—I was hired to rejuvenate it,” he says. “Once we got the program going and the kids were becoming more proficient, we were able to start the jazz band.” That’s Acox’s modest way of describing his move to Seattle from New Orleans to teach at Garfield High School in 1971—and, in 1979, to create what would become one of the most acclaimed high school jazz bands in the nation. Among many other awards, Garfield’s ensemble has twice taken first place at the prestigious Essentially Ellington National Jazz Band Competition in New York. Down Beat magazine honored Acox with its Educator of the Year award in 2001. He’s a drummer who still plays with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra (a group he cofounded) and he also teaches a class at Seattle University, but it’s the triumphant beat he’s given students for nearly four decades that makes him an integral part of this city’s musical history. “I never thought I’d be teaching that long but I’m enjoying what I’m doing,” he says. “It kind of blows my mind.” Ours too. —Steve Wiecking
Because of him… Music education in Seattle public schools holds national esteem.
Now hear this: Acox’s ensemble exudes a youthful spirit of celebration even on CD—it’s hollering, trumpeting, and, yes, really jumpin’ on “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” from Live at Benaroya Hall.
He pummeled kitchen pots and pans until a sympathetic uncle bought him his first proper drum kit when he was still just two. He’s never stopped playing. “I’ve been in a band every day of my life since third grade,” says Ayers. The bespectacled, mutton-chopped, self-confessed “metalhead” became drummer for the popular and more pastoral hometown group the Long Winters in 2005—and pushed the pop band into broader rock territory. But he made louder noises offstage. During his senior year at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, he secured an internship with Polygram Group Distribution (which represented, among others, Bon Jovi and PJ Harvey). He cofounded the thriving local Sonic Boom Records (now in Ballard and on Capitol Hill) with Jason Hughes in 1997, and in 2002 began running his own label, the Control Group, whose roster includes Northwest indie success stories like Schoolyard Heroes, the Cops, and the Lonely H, as well as more prominent global acts El Perro del Mar and Telepathique. A newlywed who recently relocated to New York City, Ayers focuses less now on the day-to-day operations of his record store in order to further cultivate his label. He remains impressively upbeat in a notoriously fickle and soul-sucking industry. “I am not very close to the ‘it’s-all-falling-apart’ belly of the beast,” he says. “If I had a job at a major label, I would have probably changed careers years ago.” —Hannah Levin
Because of him… A thriving indie record store and label defy the corporate mindset and give Seattle musicians exposure on the East Coast.
Now hear this: “Pushover,” the lead track from Putting the Days to Bed, ushered in the Long Winters’ first record with Ayers on drums.