Clifton Anderson was born on October 5, 1957 in Harlem, New York City. He grew up surrounded by music. His father was a church organist /choir director, and his mother a singer and pianist. It was no surprise that Clifton exhibited an affinity for music at an early age. When he was just seven years old he got his first trombone, a gift from his uncle Sonny Rollins.
Clifton attended the prestigious Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music and Art. In 1974 he spent one year at The State University of New York at Stony Brook studying under Simon Karasick and Dave Schechter. He continued his education at the Manhattan School of Music, and graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor of Music degree. At The Manhattan School, he studied under the renowned Metropolitan Opera trombonist John Clark. There he also met and befriended talented musicians like Angela Bofill and the late Kenny Kirkland.
While at Manhattan School of Music, Clifton began freelancing around New York City and made his first record date with Carlos Garnett in 1976. By his senior year at Manhattan he had established himself as one of the young “in demand” trombonists in New York. It was around that time that Slide Hampton formed the original “World of Trombones”, the group that would become the standard by which all jazz trombone choirs were measured. The group included Janice Robinson, Steve Turre, Earl McIntyre, Clifford Adams, Doug Purviance, Papo Vazquez, and Clifton along with residencies from Curtis Fuller, Britt Woodman and Benny Powell. Later additions to the prestigious trombone choir included Robin Eubanks, Clarence Banks, Frank Lacy, Conrad Herwig, Bob Trowers Garfield Fobbs and Malion Walker . Clifton has worked with a “who’s who” of diverse musical giants: from Frank Foster, McCoy Tyner, Clifford Jordan, Stevie Wonder, Dizzy Gillespie, Merv Griffin and The Mighty Sparrow to Lester Bowie, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Paul Simon, Terumasa Hino, Keith Richards, Muhal Richard Abrams, WyClef Jean, Geri Allen, T.S. Monk, Charlie Haden, Slide Hampton and Wallace Roney among others.