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On the Run (Live At the Velvet Lounge)

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Album Review

When Fred Anderson entered his seventies in 1999, the Chicago-based tenor sax veteran showed no signs of slowing down. His avant-garde improvisations were as passionate and arresting as ever, and he kept busy owning and operating a Windy City jazz club called the Velvet Lounge. Recorded at his Velvet Lounge in March 2000, this generally excellent CD finds a 71-year-old Anderson leading a piano-less trio that boasts Tatsu Aoki on upright bass and Hamid Drake on drums. Both are fellow Chicagoans, and both of them enjoy a strong rapport with Anderson on extended inside/outside performances such as the 18-minute "Tatsu's Groove," the 19-minute "Smooth Velvet," and the 16-minute "On the Run." Like John Coltrane, Anderson can be long-winded — and like Coltrane, he is such a wealth of creativity and imagination that his excesses can easily be forgiven. Those excesses, in fact, can even be enjoyable if you are among Anderson's die-hard devotees. Throughout the CD, Anderson never sounds the least bit inhibited; of course, being uninhibited is easier when you're playing at your own club. At his Velvet Lounge, Anderson is in the driver's seat. He doesn't have to worry about a club owner complaining that he doesn't play enough overdone standards, he isn't asked to feature predictable Sarah Vaughn clones who haven't a fraction of Sassy's soulfulness, and he doesn't have to explain his music to a booking agent who fails to comprehend avant-garde jazz. On the Run: Live at the Velvet Lounge is Anderson on his own terms and his own turf — he's calling the shots, and for listeners, that's a very good thing.


Born: 22 March 1929 in Monroe, LA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Despite being an "old school" musician in terms of grounding and early influences, Fred Anderson was a founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and headed several AACM groups in the '60s. Anderson had formally studied music theory and was strongly influenced by Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, and Gene Ammons. He reflected that training throughout his career, always having a full, huge tone and being a capable blues and ballad stylist. But he also absorbed...
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On the Run (Live At the Velvet Lounge), Fred Anderson
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