Lance Anderson, writer, composer, producer, director, performer
By Cece M. Scott cecescott.com
Lance Anderson, 66, is considered to be one of Canada’s finest record producers. A highly accomplished musical director, he has the innate, intuitive ability to recognize and nurture the talent and musical dexterity that the legendary blues singer, Long John Baldry, was famous for.
“Hearing live music is a three-dimensional experience.” – Lance Anderson
Anderson’s hit productions include The Last Waltz, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and Woodstock: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (2019), which played to sold out audiences. He is a Juno award-winning producer for his work with Leahy, and in 2014 he won a Maple Blues Award for keyboardist of the year. His own label, Make It Real Records, records live off-the-floor concerts.
“You can be easily jaded by the industry after being in it for a long time,” says Anderson. “But young people have an energy and enthusiasm that is good to be around – they bring a renewal of ideas to the table. And certainly, I get back as much as I give.”
Anderson’s positivity is contagious, and he believes in creating his own opportunities. “I have always had an energy to work. I used to stay up until the early hours writing, but I find now that I write better first thing in the morning. I also find I love my naps,” says Anderson with a laugh.
From a young age, Anderson knew what he wanted to do. “My earliest memories are of being around the piano. After a lot of banging out the same tune over and over, my parents finally enrolled me in some classical piano lessons.”
The traditional training was going along just fine, until Anderson heard the Beatles on the radio. “A friend of mine came over and started playing popular songs by ear,” says Anderson. “Once I learned how to do that, my thinking became, ‘the heck with these Bach pieces, I want to play popular music.’ I started learning absolutely everything I liked after that.”
His classical training wasn’t wasted. Anderson is an internationally renowned Hammond organ player, and has written symphony shows conducted by the Wheeling West Virginia Symphony for the premiere of Symphony in G Minor. He also wrote, and performed, in the show Four Women, featuring blues vocalist Shakura S’Aida.
Anderson’s eclectic, and highly diverse, career includes writing songs with Gordon Pinsent, touring and performing children’s songs with Mr. Dress-Up, and playing everything from rockin’ boogie piano, to jazz, orchestral music and film scores. Anderson considers his collaboration with jazz great, Oscar Peterson, an experience that continues to resonate. For Anderson, meeting Oscar was a major turning point in his life. “Oscar was a musician who stood out amongst his peers. He was naturally gifted – a real genius.”
A serendipitous meeting led to their friendship. Anderson was working for Ensoniq Keyboards, an American manufacturer, as a product specialist. His job was to play at clinics so that people could see how the keyboard functioned and sounded. “A friend of mine owned a music store in Burlington, and he called me to say that a customer had bought an Ensoniq keyboard and wanted me to go to his house to demonstrate how it worked,” says Anderson. “I said that I didn’t make house calls.
And my friend said, OK, I will tell him. Oh, by the way, it’s Oscar Peterson who wanted you to drop by.”
He was at Peterson’s house in record time. “Oscar was so welcoming, friendly and disarmingly casual that I realized that he was just one of the guys,” says Anderson.
Peterson invited Anderson downstairs and played for him on his state-of-the-art piano. “It was an exquisite instrument – the most beautiful thing I had ever heard in my life. Oscar played very complex chords and his piano had a clarity of sound, a profound movement of parts, and a wonderful touch. It was so intense that I thought I was going to cry.”
After inviting Anderson to play, Oscar stuck his head into the piano, positioning his ear near the strings. “I never get a chance to do this, Oscar told me. He asked me to play something, but I was stunned, and have no recollection as to what I played. I never did get around to showing him how the synthesizer worked.”
Anderson co-produced and performed on Oscar With Love. The critically acclaimed three-CD package celebrated Peterson’s 90th birthday, and featured top jazz pianists including Chick Corea, Ramsey Lewis, Michel Legrand and Oliver Jones – all playing compositions by Peterson.
At the age of 65, Anderson formed a new band called Matchedash Parish, with Matt Weidinger. Though still in his 20s, Anderson claims that Weidinger outshines many of the big marquee performers. Their debut, self-titled album was nominated for two 2020 Maple Blues Awards, including New Artist or Group of the Year and Recording/ Producer of the Year.
Married to Kathy Hunt for the past 40 years, the couple have three children and three grandchildren. “The fact that I write and play so much music keeps my mind and memory active. I can’t imagine retiring,” says Anderson. “My kids say that at some point I will just fall off my piano bench. I’m good with that.”
Anderson continues to perform at Toronto’s Hugh’s Room, at events for the Mariposa Folk Foundation, and he has a popular series in Orillia called An Evening of Blues and Gospel. In 2020 Anderson will be playing at the Kitchener Blues Festival in August, as well as the Orillia Jazz Festival in the fall.