Anderson a fortunate flutist

By Larissa Gula

One of the things that separated Jethro Tull from other bands was its flutist, Ian Anderson. Ian Anderson

Carnegie Library of Homestead

Tuesday, 7 p.m.

510 East 10th Ave., Munhall, Pa.



One of the things that separated Jethro Tull from other bands was its flutist, Ian Anderson.

Anderson’s North American tour will bring him to the Carnegie Library of Homestead’s Music Hall Tuesday evening.

The British singer and songwriter has played music for more than 40 years and has lived and performed through evolutionary periods of rock history, such as progressive, folk, electronic, hard and world. He played the flute in his own rock band, the groundbreaking Jethro Tull.

Today, Anderson continues to share his music — both his work as a frontman for Jethro Tull as well as acoustic and electronic pieces of his own.

Anderson can recall the “rhythmic pulse of syncopated swing music” from his childhood that impacted him and stayed with him throughout his career. While he went through a period of life when he played an electric guitar because it was “the sexy thing to do,” he was raised primarily on acoustic music and soon went back to his roots.

“I was 18 or 19 when I realized I wasn’t good at playing [the electric guitar], and Eric Clapton was,” Anderson said. “I started on the flute, and it happened to be the lucky choice of something good to play, and it got me noticed.”

Jethro Tull gained popularity as Anderson taught himself to play the flute. It was a different instrument from the norm, and as a result the band’s rock music was “not genre rock music” and still isn’t today. Anderson became the man who introduced the flute to rock music, as well as a self-described “unplugged musician in the rock band.”

“A part of me still reacts to electronic rock, but not to the point I want to play it for two hours,” Anderson said. “You can’t escape the fact that you have to keep moving into the current realism of technology in music. But there are acoustic values I’d hate to leave behind me. It’s my musical culture.”

Florian Opahle, who is playing electric and acoustic guitar with Anderson on this tour, met Anderson when he played in Germany in 2003 as an opening act for Jethro Tull. The two then coordinated and played together at two shows.

“From then on everything happened very quickly and, on the next Ian Anderson tour, I found myself on the roads of Italy touring with Ian. A dream had come true,” Opahle wrote in an e-mail.

Opahle never wanted to do anything except play music, and playing with Anderson is an enjoyable way for him to pursue what he loves.

“There are so many fantastic songs which I really enjoy  [playing],” Opahle said. “I really like the arrangement, composition and mood of the tunes. I love playing these massive songs like ‘Thick As A Brick’ or ‘Budapest’ that keep you busy regarding the individual parts, switching from a quiet section to a rock one, from a folksy to a classical one. I think that is one of the major things. It is this beautiful variety of different musical styles.”

Opahle occasionally plays solo or collaborates with blues bands in Germany. Even though Anderson has released four solo albums, he’s never gone for a completely solo career — he enjoys the group performances more.

“Being [by] myself would be limiting,” Anderson said. “I’m used to having more colors on my musical palette and working with and bouncing off other music and personalities of musicians. I think that’s part of what makes music more fun to do. It’s the human contact that gives it another dimension or two or three.”

Technology today also allows Anderson to incorporate more influences into his ever-evolving style. He takes what he likes from anything from jazz to Indian flute players to classical violinists.

“I’m all ears, really, to enjoy what’s out there,” Anderson said. “It’s a big world we live in, and we have more access to do it these days.”

Just as with workers in any other career, after 40 years on the job, there are days when he wants to quit music.

“Usually on Mondays,” Anderson said. “But of course you get those feelings. Some days you’d rather be doing something else, like fishing or training to be an astronaut. It’s doing something else for the sake of it or a new challenge. But 24 hours later I wake up with renewed vigor and determination to achieve the things that are immediately in front of me.”