Bill Anschell plays piano in a lobby (part-time Lobbyist, full-time musician).
Seattle native Bill Anschell returned to the Emerald City in 2002 after spending 25 years
studying, composing, and performing across the country and around the world.
Anschell left Seattle after high school, studying for two years at Oberlin College (Ohio),
then earning his Music Degree from Wesleyan University (Connecticut). At Wesleyan,
Anschell worked closely with saxophone great Bill Barron. He also studied semi-privately
with South Indian mrdangum master T Ranganathan, kindling a passion for rhythmic
experimentation that has driven Anschell’s music ever since.
After leading the life of a jazz vagabond for several years, Anschell settled in Atlanta in
1989. He was initially drawn there by the opportunity to serve as Jazz Coordinator for the
Southern Arts Federation (SAF), the regional arts agency of the South. Firing up SAF’s jazz
department virtually from scratch, Anschell launched a host of high-profile programs,
published a book on grantswriting, and created “JazzSouth,” an internationally syndicated
radio show. At night he dove headlong into the city’s thriving jazz scene, working as a
sideman with various groups and leading his own trio.
By 1992, Anschell’s performing itinerary had grown to the point where it demanded his
full attention. He left the SAF post, continuing to produce “JazzSouth” out of his home
while focusing on playing and composing. Over the next ten years, Anschell ascended the
jazz ranks in Atlanta, leading his trio at major festivals and becoming a first-call
accompanist for visiting jazz greats. His trio’s highlights included the 1996 Summer
Olympic Games, the Montreux Atlanta Festival and four extensive tours of South America.
During the same period, Anschell enjoyed a lengthy association with vocalist Nnenna
Freelon, serving as her pianist, arranger and musical director. Among their many
performing highlights were the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland, the Monterey Jazz
Festival in California, the Kennedy Center in Washington, and six European tours. Their
concerts were broadcast on Radio France; French national television; and NPR’s "JazzSet.”
Anschell’s piano work and arrangements were featured throughout Freelon’s 1996
Concord release Shaking Free, which was nominated for a Grammy as the year’s best jazz
Anschell was the featured artist in the December, 1997 issue of Jazz Player magazine,
which included a "play-along" CD of his original music. His own CDs have earned critical
acclaim and widespread exposure, with the last three discs all making Jazzweek’s national
“Top 50” chart for radio airplay. Anschell’s 1998 release, a different note all together, was
selected by United Press International (UPI) as one of the “10 Best” jazz releases of the
year. His latest CD, More to the Ear than Meets the Eye, was chosen by numerous critics
and radio stations across the country for their “10 Best of 2006” lists.
Anschell has played and/or recorded with a host of jazz greats including Richard Davis,
Ron Carter, Benny Golsen and Russell Malone. In 2001, he was selected by the American
Composers Forum for its “Composer-in-the-Schools” program; his residency included a
commissioned piece for chamber orchestra. The same year, his piano work was featured in
the soundtrack of the PBS movie, “Old Settler.” Since 2003, Anschell’s original
compositions have received widespread cable and network exposure, appearing on
programs including NBC’s “The West Wing” and HBO’s acclaimed series “The Wire.”
As a Seattleite, Anschell had the honor of playing a weekly gig with Northwest jazz legend
Floyd Standifer for the final two years before his passing. In 2005, Anschell received a
Golden Ear Award as the “Northwest Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year,” and in 2006 his trio
was named the “Best Northwest Acoustic Jazz Ensemble.” Golden Ears are administered by
Earshot Jazz based on open voting by the Seattle jazz community.
In 2008, Anschell's Atlanta trio reunited for a fifth South American tour,
visiting the Colombian cities of Medellin, Pereira and Manizales.