Fred Anderson celebrated his 80th birthday in March 2009, performing with long time friend and collaborator Kidd Jordan (tenor saxophone), Jeff Parker (guitar), Harrison Bankhead (bass) and Chad Taylor (drums) at his celebrated Chicago club, The Velvet Lounge.
Anderson has not recorded much in the past few years, and so every recording by him is an event. Here it becomes all the more vital, standing as a testament to the power that he and Jordan can still invest in their playing, which is quite unbelievable. Harking back to the good old days of the "chase," Anderson and Jordan are powerhouses who belie their ages (Jordan was 74).
Three tracks make up the performance but they clock in at over 68 minutes. The first two are the hub, with "21st Century Chase Pt. 1" going past 36 minutes. That would be enough to take anyone's breath away, but Anderson and Jordan are constantly in the thick of it making their level of energy amazing.
Jordan takes off first, running squiggly lines across the frame setting the pattern for the encounter to come. Anderson fills in spaces and the tenor titans set off on their mission. They visit many stylistic trails, taking off from bop terrain and then setting the confines of the form free. While the progression is often fierce, the two do not cut each other. They play off and with each other, point and counterpoint essayed with a brilliant use of intensity and space delving into deep tonality or scorching the upper registers. Comes a time when they pull back without snipping tension and it is in that space that the body is given a firmer and more defined shape.
After the marathon session, it becomes understandable when "21st Century Chase Pt. 2" opens softly on Bankhead's bowing. Angularities gradually vent their way into his schematics leading to a conversation with the horns. Jordan and Anderson constantly forge a slew of inventions with evolving patterns with the most elevating passage coming as play together with heated abandon and in perfect sync.
"Ode to Alvin Fielder" is characterized by individual performance. Parker opens with a well conceived harmonic journey on the guitar before swing comes in to make way for free enterprise. The adjunct is a welcome one, lightening the mood a bit and sweeping in some sweetness into the atmosphere. However, the overall impact is the imperative and it is unforgettable. This certainly is one for the ages.
Personnel: Fred Anderson: tenor saxophone; Kidd Jordan: tenor saxophone; Jeff Parker: guitar; Harrison Bankhead: bass; Chad Taylor: drums.