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Album Review

To achieve the age of 80 is an accomplishment. To achieve the age of 80 as a saxophone player, still at the top of the game, is something else again. In March of 2009, Chicago legend Fred Anderson finished up a week of celebration in honor of his 80th at his own Velvet Lounge with this special quintet, and Delmark records was there to record it. Fred was joined by longtime bassist Harrison Bankhead, Chad Taylor on drums (Hamid Drake was unable to get back to Chicago in time), Jeff Parker on guitar, and the mighty Kidd Jordan also on tenor sax. All these players have a history with Fred, going back more than a decade in most cases. This is cooperative music making at its best. Each tune is a journey, as different players assert the lead and pull the other players along into new territory. Taylor and Bankhead are such a sympathetic rhythm section, knowing exactly when to lay back and when to push (Taylor's rim work on the first track, and Bankhead's bowed harmonics on the second are worth noting). Jeff Parker sticks to a mostly supportive role but has some really nice contributions, getting skronky in conversation with Kidd then adopting more of a bop stance at one point with Fred. But the night really belongs to the two tenors: Fred, with his huge, burly tone, and Kidd's unsurpassed abilities at the upper end of the horn's range make for some exciting music making. These guys are perfect foils because their styles are so complementary. Forget the fact that they're both seniors, there's still plenty of fire coming out of those horns. Yes, this is free jazz, but much of it is supremely melodic (which is not to say there aren't some hairy moments). Fred Anderson has been a Chicago treasure as both player and mentor for decades (he co-founded the AACM, if you didn't know). Delmark Records' Bob Koester is equally revered for documenting the Chicago sound in both jazz and blues for more than 50 years. 21st Century Chase is another high mark for both. Terrific stuff.


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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21st Century Chase, Fred Anderson
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