a forceful flutist and composer who challenges classification while affirming her roots in straight-ahead jazz.
She was born in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. With a jazz background from the beginning through her parents strong jazz influence, listening and loving popular music of the day, and classical and jazz training, Karen’s flute playing is a convergence of styles. Her father was a jazz tenor saxophonist and vocalist from the 40’s through the 70’s. Being the seventh of eight kids, she heard music her older siblings enjoyed which mostly was rhythm and blues. While attending high school she was exposed to rock and roll like Jimmy Hendricks, the Rolling Stones, and Jethro Tull.
After high school, Karen moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in California where she got a Bachelors of Art in Music from California State University, Hayward, CA and a Masters in Music from San Francisco State University. While in college she studied with such great teachers as: Paul Renzi, principal flutist of the San Francisco Symphony, Denis de Coteau, musical director of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, and Chuck Israel, jazz professor and world-class bassist. She was a member of Chuck’s Little Big Band at Cal State Hayward along with trumpeter and composer Jeff Beal.
After graduating for SFSU, The Karen Anderson Jazztet was formed in 1991. It was a very active San Francisco based acid jazz quartet with John Schott on Guitar, Trevor Dunn on Bass, and Scott Amendola on Drums.
Karen debuted her first album In The Name Of The Father when she worked in San Francisco as a music therapist at the Laguna Honda Hospital in the AIDS Hospice ward. That experience had a big influence on Karen and on the music on that album, including the tracks of “My Funny Valentine”, The Shadow Of Your Smile" and “Gentle Rain”. Most of the songs were performed regularly for the patients in the hospice who were truly appreciative.
In 1996, Karen married saxophonist Norbert Stachel, who in 1998 became the tenor saxophonist for the band Tower of Power. The Christmas CD And Of The Son was released in 1999 with her married name of Karen Stachel. Sixteen Christmas classics are performed in a peaceful, calming, reflective and introspective way. It is mostly solo flute of songs like “The Christmas Song”, “O Holy Night” and “Merry Christmas Darling”. A few duets, trios and quartets are included; “Away in a Manger”, “Dance of the Sugar Plumfairies”, “Little Drummer Boy” "Carol of the Bells", which Karen overdubbed parts, " Silent Night" and "The Lord's Prayer".
In 2002 the Stachels moved to New York City to go after their music pursuits. She released her third CD And The Holy Spirit in 2008. "The Summer Knows", "Only Trust Your Heart" and an original bebop tune "Midtown Madness" and "The Local Bar" a blues Karen wrote in tribute to slain Sean Bell, are four songs on the album. Most of the musicians on the CD are people she met at jam sessions around New York City: Spike Wilner (proprietor of Smalls Jazz Club), Dan Nimmer (pianist with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra), Dion Tucker, Alex Hernandez, Todd Ishler, Jordan Young, Kenneth Salters, and Juni Booth (world famous bassist and dear friend). Will Bernard, Norbert Stachel, and Dave Phelps contributed their talent also.
The albums, In The Name Of The Father, And Of the Son, and And The Holy Spirit is a trilogy revealing technical prowess, a deep knowledge of genres, a gorgeous flute tone (a tone which is beloved by many) and the creative and thoughtful style that Karen loves to express. It also helps express Karen's deep devotion to the Holy Trinity.
All the while playing jazz, Karen consistently plays in orchestras, chamber groups, and musical theatre. She has performed with New Amsterdam Symphony, Broadway Bach Orchestra, San Francisco Concerto Orchestra, Marin Civic Light Opera Orchestra, and the Herperian Chamber Orchestra.
Politics aside, Karen has had to deal with the closed door for African-American musicians in the classical world. She has been asked to audition for many Symphonies including: The New York Philharmonic, The LA Philharmonic, The Detroit Symphony, The Oregon Symphony, The Radio Symphony of Paris, etc. Even though she qualifies to audition she has never been offered a chair in any major orchestra. She finally decided to start her own orchestra called "Black Philharmonic Orchestra". This orchestra is a nonprofit that will open doors to musicians of color regardless of age and musical background. The only criteria is talent. Starting a nonprofit during the pandemic is difficult due to closed government offices. So the BPO is "To Be Continued...".
In 2013 LehCats was formed with her husband Norbert which she co-leads. It is a jazz septet performing original compositions in the style of jazz, world, latin, R & B, classical, and even folk. All compositions are written by herself and Norbert. Their debut album LehCats Out Of The Bag has received a number of acclaimed reviews and helped build a nice buzz about the band. Movement to Egalitaria by LehCats was released in 2018 on the IYOUWE label of Lenny White.
Karen worked with Wallace Roney on the Wayne Shorter "Universe" project from 2015. The Wayne Shorter album of his never before recorded music “Universe” with the Wallace Roney Orchestra was recorded at Water Music in 2018. The "Universe" orchestra performed at NJPAC and the Marcus Garvey Park jazz festival in Harlem in 2017.
Karen’s musical influences are Hubert Laws, Herbie Mann, Ian Anderson, Paul Horn, Dave Valentin, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Jim Croce, Earth Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, Carlos Jobim, Elis Regina, Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn, Shirley Horn, Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln, John Benitez, Jean Pierre Rampal, and Mario Rivera to name just a few.