The image America projects around the world is one of largeness. Big movies, big SUVs, big footballers, and loud rock music. Even the impression of our jazz is loud and large, sometimes Ellingtonian, but large. From Wynton's Blood On The Fields to Ornette's Skies Of America, the largeness is apparent and flowing.
The reactions to our times and conditions are to either curse the country or go underground.
Saxophonist Fred Anderson chose to light one small candle. One of the founders of Chicago's AACM, Anderson opted to stay in town, open a club, and keep the his small candle burning.
The last ten years have seen a rediscovery of his gift, with recordings being released by the labels Okka Disc, Delmark, Eremite, and Southport. Even his work from the 1970s is being reissued on Atavistic's Unheard Music Series. Interestingly enough, the drummer Anderson nurtured on those 1970's sessions was a young Hamid Drake. Drake can also be heard on Anderson's recent work and with Peter Br'tzmann, Ken Vandermark, and William Parker. He has become a world music percussionist and master of groove and improvisation.
This paring, as is explained on the video interview and performance disc that is included with this CD, has been a long time coming. And while it feels as if these two have been working together forever (they have), neither is compelled to grandstand or enlarge this affair. They keep this simple here, saxophone and percussion.
The seventy-something saxophonist maintains a patient flow throughout. His tenor on 'Black Women (for Beatrice Anderson and Amelia Drake)' reminds me of a very spiritual John Coltrane opening of 'Alabama.' Tolerant and respectful, the two go about their music making, ever mindful of the other. Both Drake and Anderson are mindful of the melody, working simple patterns and themes.
Drake switches from his kit to hand drumming to vary the feel. On his drum kit he can bring a thunderous boom as on the title track, or twiddle a response on his symbols and snare on the track 'A Ray From THE ONE.' He multi-tracks his hand drumming on 'Leap Forward' (which is shown in split screen on the video) while Anderson applies his breath rhymes.
Fred Anderson's playing is both as large as the image of a Chicago tenor man, but also as gentle as one who is at peace with his responsibilities. The disc closes with Drake's chant of 'Lama Khyenno.' While I cannot understand the language sung, the message of love comes through from this simple gift of music.
Personnel: Fred Anderson - Tenor Saxophone; Hamid Drake - Drums, Percussion, Vocals.