El Gato

‘Cat’ Anderson with the Duke Ellington Orchestra

Switzerland, 1959

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For two decades William “Cat” Anderson performed the trumpet with Duke Ellington and his orchestra. Almost everyone in this orchestra was at the top of his field, but Cat was famous for being able to have a range of more than five octaves, which is absolutely spectacular.

“El Gato” means “the cat” in Spanish. It was a name Anderson picked up while in an orphanage, as it supposedly characterized his fighting style. Jazz educator and fellow trumpeter Wynton Marsalis would describe his ability to play high notes as entirely elite. Today many trumpet students look to him as a model.

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