Born: October 29, 1969 Primary Instrument: Saxophone
Anibal Rojas is a saxophonist with indigenous roots in a modern world. His is the music of the immigrant, the sound of assimilation and integration, the blending of cultures, classes, and musical traditions.
His debut CD, “Ahkneeball,” is the musical interpretation of his life’s journey so far ? from Chile to the United States, (“Los Andes, Part I,” “Los Andes Part II,” and “The Midnight Zone,” respectively pay homage to Chile’s mountains and it’s coast); from child to adult (“Walking”). And what a life it has been.
Born in Chile, Rojas emigrated to the U.S. in his early teens. His parents, fleeing political persecution, bought him a saxophone and signed him up for music lessons to keep him out of trouble. To supplement the family’s income ? his father’s modest doctoral student stipend —Rojas spent his summers as a migrant worker in Iowa’s cornfields. All the while, he was learning too— English and music. He scored a full music scholarship auditioning on a horn that was held together with rubber bands and four years later scored a degree in music performance from the University of Iowa.
A classically trained jazz lover, Rojas moved to the East Coast and found work with R&B and funk bands, who appreciated his screaming altissimo and big, colorful sound. He spent a few years touring with oldies R&B groups like Cuba Gooding and the Main Ingredient as well as with funk bands like Skintight and New York Horns. The gigs took him from across the country (The track “Le Montrose” recalls his first trip to L.A.) and halfway around the world, to Morocco where he played for the king.
But all the while, the soundtrack playing in his head was the music of the Andes, voiced on saxophone and on indigenous instruments like the quena, quenacho, and zampona. And while valuing his career as a sideman, he wanted to make music that was his own. Depending on the day ? or what kind of music they heard him playing ? “experts” advised Rojas to make a smooth jazz, Latin jazz, funk, pop, or R&B record. But while in New York, he spent some time with Latin Grammy winner Nestor Torres, who advised him to “just write music that’s a reflection of who you are as a person.”
And that’s exactly what “Ahkneeball” is. To be sure, the recording showcases Rojas’ world-class saxophone chops, but it also features his considerable skill on a variety of flutes and indigenous instruments. “This music is a reflection of who I am as an immigrant, as a Chilean, as a U.S. citizen, and as a citizen of the world,” Rojas says. “That’s how I see myself—as a citizen of the world. I speak more than one language fluently. I can move comfortably among cultures. And I think my music has those same qualities.”
Rojas has performed and/or recorded with Latin jazz great Ray Mantilla, Tom Bowes of Tower of Power fame, Cuba Gooding and the Main Ingredient, Marlon Simon and the Nagual Spirits, M’oudSwing, the Latin Jazz Journey, Barry Sames, former Spin Doctor Anthony Krizan, Ralph Bowen, Mario Rodriguez, Todd Bashore, SVETI, Kenny Davis, Mason Brothers, Conrad Herwing, Alex Hernandez, Roberto Quintero, Dennis Gruenling and Jump Time, The Diablo Project, Zen Zadravec, The Philadelphia Funk Authority, and Skin Tight & The New York Horns.
Some of Anibal's recent highlights include playing for the King of Morocco's New Year's Eve Party at the palace in Marrakech and the opening night of Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts opening for Elton John with the Philadelphia Funk Authority. Rojas has played major venues nationwide, including Carnegie Hall, The Apollo Theater, Universal Studios Amphitheatre, and The Greek Theater, and has appeared on the television shows Access Hollywood, The Joan Rivers Show, Good Morning America, and The Today Show.
Florham Park, NJ