Been Down This Road Before

“Been Down This Road Before”

(Ropeadope)

Trombone virtuoso Clifton Anderson wrote the music for the title song to his recent release, Been Down This Road Before (Ropeadope), following the 2013 murder of Trayvon Martin. However, continued violence, by police and others, toward people of color in ensuing years prompted him to pen lyrics for the song, as well. Anderson recruited venerable jazz singer Andy Bey to deliver those lyrics, and Bey’s warmth and wisdom express the sadness and hopefulness inherent in the music. “I heard somebody say, that they don’t like the way some people look or pray,” he sings. “Stand your ground, ask questions later/OK to shoot them down/As long as they’re black or brown.” It’s nothing new for Black folks, he notes in the recurring lines, “I know for sure, I’ve been down this road before.” The tune begins with a sigh-inducingly lovely duet between Anderson and guitarist Peter Bernstein, before the rest of the band enters the mix. A jaunty rhythm maintains a somewhat optimistic vibe, punctuated by Anderson’s uplifting commentary on trombone. The nephew of another socially concerned jazz artist, Sonny Rollins — whose Freedom Suite rang loud during the Civil Rights era — Anderson has been playing trombone since his uncle gave him one at the age of 7. He seems to conclude that the road to justice may be long and the scenery woefully familiar, but it’s still worth traveling to “find a better way.”

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