Where Did "The Melting Pot" Come From?


People are familiar with the American idea of the immigration “melting pot,” but few would guess where it came from. We got the term “melting pot” from the arts.

At a time of massive American immigration, a 1908 play called The Melting Pot premiered in Washington, DC from British writer Israel Zangwill. The play's protagonist David Quixano sought to write a great symphony called The Crucible dedicated to immigration in America. David declares that “America is God’s Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming!” and quarrels with an antagonist, wealthy Quincy Davenport Jr., who as the only American-born character in the play wants to “stop all alien immigration.” David says “the real American has not yet arrived.  He is only in the Crucible, I tell you.” 

 Israel Zangwill.  Source: Wikipedia

Israel Zangwill.  Source: Wikipedia

 Play's program cover shows immigrants streaming past Statue of Liberty into crucible.  Source: Wikipedia

Play's program cover shows immigrants streaming past Statue of Liberty into crucible.  Source: Wikipedia

A Russian Jewish immigrant to New York who had escaped pogroms in his home country, main character David finishes his symphony, has it performed to great acclaim, and proposes to marry his love Vera, a Russian Christian immigrant. David proclaims the “glory of America, where all races and nations come to labour and look forward!”[1]

As the curtain came down on its opening night, US President Teddy Roosevelt is said to have shouted from his box, “That’s a great play, Mr. Zangwill, that’s a great play.”  Roosevelt later wrote a letter to Zangwill saying that The Melting Pot would always be “among the very strong and real influences upon my thought and my life.”

The Melting Pot took its central metaphor – depicted on its program cover – from the making of steel. Raw iron gets liquefied in a smelting pot or crucible to purify, mix, and pour it into a useful form. This metaphor took hold in the heart of the Industrial Revolution, when making steel was necessarily seen as making progress. The play captured enough of the public imagination that the “melting pot” metaphor is still a part of American culture. 

I learned about the play The Melting Pot while finishing my album, also called Melting Pot, which releases September 18, 2018.



[1] Israel Zangwill, The Melting Pot, The American Jewish Book Company, New York, 1921 (available as a free Amazon Kindle book).

My Musical Family


I’ve sometimes wondered, how did I come to play music?  A lot of musicians originate from “musical families,” but mine didn’t seem unusually so growing up.  As I started to research my ancestors and ask questions of relatives, I realized that my family was much more musical than I had thought. 


An aunt referred me to a book written by a cousin. The book said that my great-grandfather from Copenhagen who became a Wisconsin patriarch, Matt Matson, kept the luxury of a phonograph player and classical records in his farmhouse, even when necessities were hard to come by – he raised twelve children on that farm.  Matt played violin, as did several of the children, and he also made violins, based on this book caption from June Pomerinke's "The Young Years." (1)

Matt Matson's son-in-law, and my grandfather, Arvid Anderson passed when I was very young and I had just fleeting memories of him. I later learned that he also played the violin, and that he enjoyed down-home fiddle jamming as shown in this photo, discovered at a family reunion:

 Arvid Anderson playing violin with guitarist friend Eddie

Arvid Anderson playing violin with guitarist friend Eddie

One account from "The Young Years" described the family music-making:

“Midsummer was a very happy time at our house.  … Arvid would bring (his violin).  Dad (Matt) would take his off the wall and brother Bob [Matson] would play his accordion – and everybody sang.” (2)


My maternal grandfather Charles Mattinen was clearly musical.  He sang bass in choirs for most of his life, bought me my first professional saxophone (the alto sax I play on Melting Pot), and when planning his memorial service in his 90s, requested that my classically trained pianist/cousin, Laura (Oinonen) Yrjanson, play Sibelius’s full “Finlandia” overture on piano as prelude music. Years ago I wrote a song for him derived from the “Finlandia” theme called “Blues for Chas.” 

 Charlie Mattinen, photo by cousin Don Johnson.

Charlie Mattinen, photo by cousin Don Johnson.

 Vienna Oinonen, 1938

Vienna Oinonen, 1938

Charlie's wife, my grandmother Vi, was warm-hearted but tone-deaf, and could not carry a tune when singing hymns next to me in the local Finnish Lutheran church on Sunday mornings.  Yet music was important to her.  One of her  possessions I've acquired is a notebook of over 200 full song lyrics from the year 1935-36 that she had painstakingly written out by hand as a young adult.  I especially relate to some of these “new” songs like “Sing, Sing, Sing, Sing,” “The Way You Look Tonight” and “No Greater Love” because they would later become jazz standards. I wrote a song for her called “One for Vienna.”

My mother, Kathryn (Mattinen) Anderson was a talented pianist. After I moved to New York, my mother hinted that she'd love to see a concert at Carnegie Hall, so I took my parents to a performance there of Martha Argerich playing the Ravel Piano Concerto. Afterward, she told me that her childhood piano teacher had told her she should dream of playing at Carnegie Hall one day. The story surprised me because she played rarely and was modest about her abilities. I wrote a couple of songs after my mother’s passing, one called “Sanctuary” and another called “Splendor of the Old” paying tribute to her work as a geriatric nurse. 

 Kathryn Mattinen

Kathryn Mattinen

My mother’s sister Marion was developmentally disabled, yet had the savant-like ability to instantly recognize and give the names of hundreds of songs.  Her guardian in her later years, cousin Laura said that Marion could pick out melodies she knew on the piano, despite never having a piano lesson, and that she believed Marion had perfect pitch.

 Cousins in recital: seated Laura (Oinonen) Yrjanson after accompanying her daughter, Sarah Yrjanson (now MacDonald), playing a movement of the Mendelssohn Violin concerto

Cousins in recital: seated Laura (Oinonen) Yrjanson after accompanying her daughter, Sarah Yrjanson (now MacDonald), playing a movement of the Mendelssohn Violin concerto

My brother, Bob, played the guitar and bass, had good taste in music and brought home the first recordings that “hipped me” to jazz.  His recordings of Maynard Ferguson, Grover Washington and Woody Herman were essential to getting me started with the genre.

I came to play music because it’s in my family culture, because it was an option provided to me, and to some degree, because it’s in my genes. 

As I looked over my family history, I understood that I came to play music because it’s in my family culture, because it was an option provided to me, and to some degree, because it’s in my genes.  Why didn’t I make the connection sooner? I had been distracted by the styles of music my elders enjoyed – it wasn’t my music, so I couldn’t see how my musical interest came through them.

 Emmett Anderson, 3rd from left.

Emmett Anderson, 3rd from left.

My father, Emmett, never played a musical instrument.  But I saw parallels between my pursuit of music, and his young days learning to fly planes (he enlisted in the Air Force, was the first in his class to fly solo, and flew refueling planes during peacetime before becoming an educator & counselor).  I pictured my dad embracing risk and adventure through flying, finding freedom and joy. I wrote a song for him called “The Aviator” and had the chance to perform it for him a couple of times on gigs.  He told the story of his plane stalling one day while flying solo – an ultimate test of a pilot’s nerve (if he had not calmly restarted the plane engine in flight, I would not be here).  Accordingly, at the end of this song from my debut album Clarity (performed with pianist John Hansen), I left my father suddenly, silently, up in the air:

The music for the Melting Pot album was not written to convey my musical background, but to celebrate the musical heritage of people I’ve met and musicians I've been performing with.  In my upcoming posts, I’ll write about the origin of the “Melting Pot” in American culture, and the about the musical Melting Pot of New York City. 


(1) June Pomerinke, The Young Years, Young Press, St. Maries, Idaho, 1986, p. 247.

(2) The Young Years, p. 17.

How My Ancestors Came to the Melting Pot


Naturally, creating a new album centered around immigrants and musical heritage leads to the question, where did my people emigrate from? And how should I think about my family heritage in an age of scientific advances like DNA testing? Here’s an exploration of these questions…

My Lineage

My family line is quite simple at first glance:  all my ancestry came to the United States during the late 1800s to settle in the Upper Midwest (Minnesota & Wisconsin).  My eight great-grandparents migrated from Finland, Sweden and Denmark.  All were apparently Lutheran. Half of them emigrated in the narrow window from 1884-85.

 Origins of my maternal (red) and paternal (blue) great-grandparents

Origins of my maternal (red) and paternal (blue) great-grandparents

 Swedish immigrant Andrew Anderson (Anders Aronsson) became a farmer in Wisconsin.

Swedish immigrant Andrew Anderson (Anders Aronsson) became a farmer in Wisconsin.

My father's line can be traced back further using genealogy sites to the early 1800s, and my mother's line back to the 1700s in above-Arctic Circle Finnish Lapland.  

So on the surface, my family is 100% Nordic Protestant.  We’ll see what science has to say about that, but first a bit about the pride my family held in its heritage...

Pride of Heritage

 Aurora Elizabeth (Jukkola) Mattinen, b. 1851 Tervola, Finland, the only known photo of my  great -great-grandparents

Aurora Elizabeth (Jukkola) Mattinen, b. 1851 Tervola, Finland, the only known photo of my great-great-grandparents

My ancestors were proud of their Scandinavian & Finnish background.  My parents enjoyed lots of heritage foods and traditions and flew Finnish, Swedish and Danish flags I had given them, at the family lake cabin. My maternal grandparents served in Finnish ceremonial orders called the Knights & Ladies of Kalevela, centered around the book The Kalevela, the book of Finnish mythological legends, of which I have an English copy inscribed by my great-grandfather John A. Mattinen as a gift to my grandfather Charlie.

John Mattinen, who migrated to Minnesota in 1884, would write a book about the Finnish immigrant experience in Minnesota in the 1870s-80s recounting the history of Finnish settlers, their institutions and businesses in the Thompson Farming Area of Minnesota.  It also contains gushing accounts of the migrant Finns.  At one point he explains why he feels the local Finns had succeeded, where settlers of others nationalities had failed:

“…it is the temperate mind, the strong body, and the life experience people of Finnish descent are endowed with. Owing to their way of life, this people has a well-developed body and a pure soul, which can endure the hardest trials.“(1)

 John A. Mattinen, b. 1876 Kemi, Finland, businessman and author

John A. Mattinen, b. 1876 Kemi, Finland, businessman and author

I’m sure that the Finnish settlers overcame immense hardship via great effort and experience farming in a familiar climate, yet I grew uneasy with my great-grandfather’s explanation.  If the Finns were naturally exceptional, what was to be said of other ethnic groups?  At what point does pride in one’s heritage become detrimental? I knew from childhood memories that ethnic prejudice had a place in my family heritage, too.

Deep Heritage

How would my understanding of family heritage hold up to a modern DNA test?  Around the time I went into the studio to record Melting Pot, I coincidentally received a genealogy search as a gift from my girlfriend Ilana.  The music was already written and arranged for the album when I got the results back, yet I would find connections between the music I had written and the genealogical test.

Through National Geographic’s Genographic program, a simple mail-in saliva DNA test determines deep ancestry on maternal and paternal lines, to show where my DNA migrated around the globe.

Here’s a snapshot of my maternal (mother’s side) deep ancestry:

 One of my maternal DNA markers, source:  Genographic

One of my maternal DNA markers, source:  Genographic

As you can see via the red marker, DNA from my mother’s can be traced back to today’s Iraq/Iran region around 50,000 years ago. I was intrigued to learn that my maternal DNA had migrated through the Middle East on the way up to Finland. Note that this was a long time ago, and paths through the Middle East are common.  

Here’s my paternal (father’s side) deep ancestry:

 One of my paternal DNA markers, year = , source:  Genographic

One of my paternal DNA markers, year = , source:  Genographic

This red marker from my father’s side shows my DNA migration traced back to Central Asia, slightly north of today’s India in the Tajikistan/Kashmir/China area.  I had ancestors in this region for about 15,000 years (up to about 30,000 years ago).  Though not quite India, this was “in the neighborhood,” and since I had just arranged multiple songs for Melting Pot with Indian classical instruments (sitar and tabla) and Indian sonic inspiration, I was pleased to see that I had bloodlines had settled for a while in this general part of the world.  And the fact that both of my family lines – like everyone’s – can be scientifically traced to Africa reinforces that we all come from one place (see my post We Are One).

There was one final surprise. The Genographic test also gave a percent breakdown of where in the world my genes have resided over the last 500-10000 years. It showed 2% of my genetic heritage coming from the Jewish diaspora. This was unexpected, as my family assumed our heritage to be entirely Nordic Protestant. For me it was interesting timing to learn this, since I had just written and arranged an adaptation of a Jewish Hannukuh theme, Ma’oz Tzur (which I called “A Candle for Isaac”) for the Melting Pot album.


Overall, the genetic test showed that my family was basically correct about its recent immigration history, but that it’s not homogenous – our background is actually more exotic than we thought. The color of our skin, like everyone’s, is a result of our ancestors’ adaptation to the climates they lived in. We can all take joy in the cultural traditions passed on to us, yet I see no value in claiming that one cultural background is superior to another.

I’ll close this post with an original song called “Geneology” from my previous album Blue Innuendo.

In my next post, I’ll write about My Musical Family.

Footnotes:  (1) John A. Mattinen, translated from Finnish by Richard A. Impola, History of the Thompson Farming Area, Carlton County Historical Society, 2000, p. 25.

"We Are One"


I had the pleasure of hearing Zakir Hussain’s Crosscurrents band recently at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater – an amazing facility, like a Vienna State Opera house built for jazz.  Tabla virtuoso Hussain’s band, featuring a core of India-originated musicians as well as American guest stars Dave Holland and Chris Potter, played a great and uninterrupted 2+ hours of music. Yet one of the most memorable moments for me was Hussain’s spoken introduction. Summarizing a lifetime of cross-cultural learning and the music that would be played onstage that night by his diverse supergroup, Hussain said, “We are one.”

The audience cheered loudly, knowing that Hussain was saying that not only was this group “one” musically – that their musical talent would allow them to play together despite growing up in other cultures – but that the musicians, audience and all people share the same humanity, and are part of an interconnected, interdependent whole.

Music Can Bring Us Closer Together

My own experiences with life, travel and making music have also shown me that “we are one” – that people everywhere are more similar than different. I’ve also learned that music has a special power to bridge the gaps between people.  I recall touring in the Soviet Union with a University of Minnesota group just before the end of the Cold War.  Despite being warned that Russian people would be ideologically rigid and suspicious to speak with Americans, we actually made friends with people daily. One Russian, a jazz piano player I had given some cassette tape recordings to, traveled 45 minutes to give me a vinyl copy of Mussorgsky’s Boris Gudunov at my next performance.

 With a new Russian friend in St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad)

With a new Russian friend in St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad)

I recall many years later on my birthday in 2016, sitting in with Cuban percussionist Juan Carlos (“Peje”) Rojas Castro’s band in Havana. I had wanted for many years to visit Cuba in part because of its rich music culture, and the US had made it easier to travel to Cuba after many years of political embargo.  I warmly felt that Peje and these talented and friendly Cubans were as happy to play with an American that night as I was to perform with them.  People are people, despite politics that get between them.

 "Peje" -- Juan Carlos Rojas Castro, and me in Havana

"Peje" -- Juan Carlos Rojas Castro, and me in Havana

And finally, I think of my rewarding experience the last couple of years as tenor/soprano saxophonist in Memo Acevedo’s Manhattan Bridges Orchestra. During our two years’ residency at New York’s Zinc Bar, I’ve gotten to make music with a virtual United Nations of musicians from across the US, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East, piloted by an inspiring Colombian-born bandleader who terms our music “global jazz” and calls us brothers and sisters. 

 Memo Acevedo's Manhattan Bridges Orchestra after a rehearsal (Memo is below center).

Memo Acevedo's Manhattan Bridges Orchestra after a rehearsal (Memo is below center).

Drawing from my experiences with Manhattan Bridges Orchestra, from connections made to Indian music via people from the Brooklyn Raga Massive, and from people I’ve met along the way, I’m now completing an album that celebrates direct musical influences from other parts of the world, specifically Cuba, Brazil and India. More on this soon.

I’ll be blogging more in the weeks ahead.



Acknowledgements:  Special thanks to Jake Cohen from Jazz at Lincoln Center, Gary Morgan, Ilana Judah and James Noyes

Introducing Blue Innuendo


A Quiz Question -- "Blue Innuendo" is:

A) an album

B) a band

C) a song

D) a feeling

E) All of the above  (CORRECT ANSWER)

Blue Innuendo is a new album named after a band named after a song named after a feeling.


I had written several original songs I thought would sound great with a group of sax, guitar, organ and drums. I wrote a few more specifically for this group and added a song by friend Devin Lowe, and then it was time to rehearse and record!  I've was fortunate to get some great musicians to play the music...


I'm excited to present the Blue Innuendo band, with

  • Tom Guarna on Guitar
  • Pat Bianchi on Hammond organ
  • Matt Wilson on drums

(I play tenor and soprano saxophones on the project).  I've always been a fan of the sax-guitar-organ-drums format, and of jazz organ groups in general. As a group we bring this sound into the present while also paying homage to its classic past... 


Blue Innuendo is also the title of an original song I've dedicated to jazz organ master Joey D'Francesco. Joey has captured the history and sound of the organ in his playing and plays so beautifully. Once I heard Joey at the Blue Note in New York, and the music felt so good, I could feel it in my body the next day!  Blue Innuendo the song features the organ and pays tribute to this type of feeling possible in a jazz organ group...


When I think of the feeling of Blue Innuendo -- the blues inflection that comes with adding the organ to a jazz group -- I remember recordings that are not blues songs, but are played with a blues inflection by master musicians. The Hammond B3 had a way of bringing the blues wail -- at least a hint of it -- to any song, even if that song is a ballad or a bossa. I'll blog some more about that soon... 

In the meantime, enjoy Blue Innuendo!  You'll find links to purchase the album on the homepage.


Thank you to all the people who helped make this project possible, including: Pat, Tom, Matt and Devin, the folks at Systems Two Recording Studios, Scott Anderson, Ross Nyberg, Dr. James Noyes, Cheryl Hooper, Devin Lowe, Michiko Studios, Eric Halvorson, Phil Stewart, Tim Lancaster, Scott Thornton, Bill Singer, Doug Bambrick, Bob Anderson and Ilana Judah!







    Embed "Blue Innuendo" concert on your website

    We're excited to be live streaming the Blue Innuendo album release concert in cooperation with Michiko Studios.  

    Feel free to embed video of the show (April 28, 8:00 pm EST) on your own website by adding the following YouTube Embed code:

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ROVYLXBiJgI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    Thanks for your help sharing the music!  To simply watch the show you can go here at the appointed time.

    Announcing LABEL1

     Thanks Cheryl Hooper for an inspired logo design!

    Thanks Cheryl Hooper for an inspired logo design!

    I'm excited to announce the launch of LABEL1.  For a long time I've wanted to have a label to put out my own recordings and have both musical and promotional control over the projects.

    Since it's a challenging time for both the recording industry and jazz musicians, one might ask, isn't having a jazz label just combining the two worst ways to make money? Perhaps, but it's also a chance to try some new ideas to promote music and musicians. With Blue Innuendo, LABEL1's first release, we'll try some of these new ideas.

    Visual Experience

    Recorded music is trying to compete with streaming video, video games, and an increasingly multi-sensory internet, yet jazz has been marginalized to present itself as an audio-only experience. The album art of the past has been reduced to a thumbnail on a phone. Jazz video experiences are less common than in other genres and are often substandard. Blue Innuendo will come with a free digital booklet (on Bandcamp, on iTunes, or anyone can download from this site). The April 28 release concert in New York will be live-streamed on YouTube so anyone in the world with an Internet connection can watch the show, or embed it on their own website.

    "Open Source" Songs

    Artists often see limited revenue from publishing their compositions, because business practices are shackled by copyright. A law that was supposed to protect composers' income has likely reduced potential income all but the most famous composers by preventing their songs from circulating. Really -- in this digital age artists' compositions can't be shared because it might jeopardize their future printed sheet music income?! My original songs on Blue Innuendo are available as free sheet music PDFs to be freely copied, shared or redistributed for non-commercial purposes with a Creative Commons license.

    Playing with the Cats

    People can play Guitar Hero with their favorite bands, but not if it's a jazz band. Sure, there are play along records (e.g. Jamey Aebersold), but if musicians want to play along with their favorite recordings they'll always have to "play over" another soloist. "The Phantom" from Blue Innuendo is available as a free play along MP3 with sheet music minus the saxophone tracks, so that student, amateur -- or pro -- musicians can play the studio version of the song with Hammond B3 organist Pat Bianchi, guitarist Tom Guarna and drummer Matt Wilson. Now those are some cats!

    We'll blog some more about these topics in the days ahead. 

    It will be fun to try these ideas and share them with the music community and to share the new music on Blue Innuendo. The "cats" played great and it's exciting to capture them together playing this music.

    Ghosts of Systems Two

    "Do you want to try the Coltrane mic?"

    ...asked one of the engineers at Systems Two studios in Brooklyn. "Don't point that thing at me!" I wanted to say.

    Recording my first New York album with terrific musicians was enough excitement for the day, I didn't need distraction by any thoughts of John Coltrane's huge legacy. The microphone in question was an RCA "ribbon" mic owned and used by John Coltrane, later passed to Systems Two by Ravi Coltrane. We actually did end up using it as one of a few sax mics in the final mix.

    Coltrane was one of several "ghosts" to be found at the Systems Two: great musicians who have used the studio or its gear to capture classic sound. We used Marvin "Smitty" Smith's old drum set which is standard gear at Systems.  

     The Hammond C3 (just like a B3 but with a full body instead of legs)

    The Hammond C3 (just like a B3 but with a full body instead of legs)

    System's Hammond C3 organ once lived at Long Island's Ultrasonic Recording studios where it was used by artists including Billy Joel, and on the 60s hit song "In a Gadda Da Vida." Around the same time we were in the studio, organ master Dr. Lonnie Smith was there recording his recent Blue Note album Evolution with Joe Lovano and Robert Glasper. 

    Engineer Mike Marciano and organist Pat Bianchi check the Hammond C3 sound (that's not a ghost behind the control room glass, it's ambling drummer Matt Wilson)

    It's pretty common to cross paths with famous gear or musical legacies in the recording studio, but it's important to not let it mess with your head. I'm really pleased with how the (soon to be released) Blue Innuendo album turned out, so I guess we kept the ghosts at bay. 

    Here are some of my personal favorites albums recorded at Systems Two: