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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby




DELMARK DE-568 [68:51]


Flashback [14:05]
Ode to Tip [15:11]
By Many Names [12:35]
Timeless [23:31]
Fred Anderson (tenor sax)
Harrison Bankhead (bass)
Hamid Drake (drums, percussion, vocal)
Recorded at the Velvet Lounge, Chicago, July 12th and 13th, 2005

Fred Anderson’s name first came to any degree of international prominence as one of the founding members of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) in the Chicago of the 1960s. In subsequent years he attracted a good deal less attention than some of his fellow Chicagoans, such as Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams, Lester Bowie and Joseph Jarman. In part this was because he stayed behind in Chicago when others moved on to New York and beyond. In part, I suspect, it was because his talent was relatively slow to mature. On such early recordings as I have heard his voice is altogether less distinctive than it later became. Actually Anderson’s career has been recorded in very inconsistent and partial fashion, so it is hard to be clear about the nature of his development. It was only really in the 1990s that his work was recorded with any regularity, and many of these later recordings are on relatively hard-to-find labels.

This new CD has the advantages of good recording quality and of being on the widely-distributed Delmark label.

To support himself and his family, Anderson worked as a bar tender at an establishment called Tip’s Lounge on Indiana Avenue in Chicago. On the death of the owner in 1982, Anderson took over the venue, renaming it the Velvet Lounge and making it a small but important setting for improvised music – something of its importance is celebrated in Gerald Majer’s book The Velvet Lounge: On Late Chicago Jazz (Columbia University Press, 2005).

This present CD was recorded at the Velvet Lounge on two successive nights, shortly before the club’s closure and demolition. At the time of recording Anderson was 76, but his playing has all the adventurousness, inventiveness and stamina of youth. His tenor sound belongs in the Chicago tradition of such as Gene Ammons and Von Freeman, a large fluid sound, soaked in the blues and with an unsentimental lyricism on ballads. Though one might think of him as a ‘free’ player, his work is thoroughly grounded in quasi-traditional ideas of melody and harmony and the listener doesn’t have to be committed to the avant-garde to be able to find a great deal to enjoy here. Playing with two long-time associates, Anderson is able to rely on the way they draw on both intuition and experience to complement his free-wheeling improvisations.

On four long tracks, Anderson spins out some long lines, insistently reiterates single notes against a changing rhythmic background, plays tenderly and sensually, has moments of hard-edged brusqueness, throws out hints that are left undeveloped or pursues a motif to its logical conclusion. The group interplay is a joy in itself, with Bankhead’s double-bass sounding at times guitar-like, at times minimalist in its insistence on precise time-keeping, at still other times weaving complex chordal patterns. Drake is, quite simply, one of the master-drummers of contemporary jazz, and this is a chance to hear him at something like his best in an intimate setting.

Outstanding, richly enjoyable.

Glyn Pursglove

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