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.
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 performances took him from across the country 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 zampoña. 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 so he began developing a distinctive voice in Jazz & World Music.