For over five decades, the world of rock and pop has recognized a singular figure when it comes to flute players – Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. In a recent Zoom interview, he acknowledges the emergence of a new talent, Lizzo, a classically trained flutist, who he believes might surpass his own skills.
Tull, however, remains as distinctive as ever. Their latest album, “RokFlote,” is a unique concept album delving into Norse mythology, a rarity in today’s music landscape. Anderson, reflecting on this theme, remarks, “Norse mythology originally struck me as a very bad jumping-off point for a Jethro Tull record. The challenge was to find a way to do it. I had to adopt a light touch in the writing and not give the connotations of a master race, since the poor old Vikings died out several hundred years ago. I tried to give each song a couple stanzas of descriptive writing, followed by a couple that find parallels with human characters that I might know from my associations over the years. What’s interesting about the characters of Norse gods is that they’re not depicted as spiritual magical beings, but as superior humans.”
Jethro Tull classics, like “Aqualung,” and their latest work, “RokFlote,” will likely be part of the setlist when the band performs at the MGM Grand on Saturday.
As Anderson looks back on Tull’s discography, he notes that their most popular albums are also his personal favorites. He remarks, “I’d say that ‘Stand Up’ was one of the best, the ‘Aqualung’ album had some important songs on it, then up to the ’80s with ‘Crest of a Knave.’ When you do a new album, you don’t want to do something that just sounds the same as a previous one, but you don’t want to have it sound radically different either. People are at this point in their aging lives, looking for some familiarity. They know what they like to have for Sunday lunch, and they know what they like to listen to.”
The band’s lineup has evolved since their last pre-Covid tour, and Anderson expresses enthusiasm for the fresh energy the new members bring. “When I write for a new project, I think of the personalities of the musicians involved. And since we couldn’t play in a room together during the Covid years, it was exhilarating to do that. We’ve still got a musical style that keeps us from sounding like a bunch of other people. And keeps them from sounding like us, since it’s quite difficult to play.”
In recent years, Anderson has revisited every Jethro Tull album for deluxe reissues. This extensive project required him to listen to every song the band ever recorded, including the ones that were rejected. Anderson reflects on the process, saying, “I expected a lot of disappointing surprises when I started work on it. But I was relatively relaxed after listening to the music two or three times. Even the songs that didn’t meet the standard, when you put them in the context of the era and my age at the time, nothing was too dreadful. Maybe a half dozen were just a little dreadful.”
Fans of Jethro Tull can anticipate a remarkable evening of timeless classics and new sounds when the band graces the stage at the MGM Grand.