Art Anton

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A percussionist known for his work on conga and timbales as well as the traditional trap drum set, Art Anton frequently is credited as Arthur Anton or Artie Anton. A private student of Irving Torgman…
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A percussionist known for his work on conga and timbales as well as the traditional trap drum set, Art Anton frequently is credited as Arthur Anton or Artie Anton. A private student of Irving Torgman in the early '40s, Anton was a music major at New York University from 1943 through 1944, returning for further studies from 1946 through 1947. In between, the Navy grabbed him to play its own military paradiddles. From the late '40s onward, Anton began working with leaders such as Herbie Fields, Sonny Dunham, Bobby Byrne, Tommy Reynolds, and Art Wall. In 1952, he got into the combo of the open-minded saxophonist Bud Freeman, moving to pianist Ralph Flanagan's band the following year. Anton's drumming style stuck closely to straight-ahead jazz swinging or whatever other beat was required. His main influence was the rugged Dave Tough, and like this mentor, he mastered the art of tasteful, rhythmic counterpoint. These were not drummers who tried to steal the spotlight from the soloist, and neither ever felt they had to bother acknowledging later progressions in jazz drumming methodology.

After gigs in 1954 with Jerry Gray and Charlie Barnet, the drummer relocated to the west coast and began freelancing. He performed and recorded with important bandleaders, from the big band of Stan Kenton to multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Giuffre's smaller units. With the former leader, Anton's talents on timbales were often showcased, while his assignment in the progressive jazz of Giuffre was simply to keep swinging, even though the harmonic backdrop sounded quite different.

Maintaining steady employment as a jazzman on the stingy Los Angeles scene must have been difficult, a problem illustrated by Anton's having to look for other types of employment. During the '60s, residents of Los Angeles might have answered a knock on their door only to find Anton there, ready to sell them a vacuum cleaner. He also worked as a private detective, so citizens who were having affairs or were otherwise up to no good might have also spotted Anton shadowing them, and hopefully from more of a distance then he followed Giuffre, Freeman, and all the other leaders he drummed for. Despite any and all employment hassles, Anton remains a highly respected west coast percussionist, considered good enough to get an emergency call from none other than Frank Zappa when that unorthodox bandleader's regular drummer, the younger studio ace Jim Gordon, got arrested in South Carolina for illegal drugs during the 1972 Grand Wazoo tour.