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Artist Profiles

Fred Anderson Finally Gets His Due: And His Records Back In Print

By Published: January 13, 2003

Drake listed himself along with Jarman, Lewis, Brimfield, reedist Douglas Ewart, drummer Steve McCall, bassist Charles Clark, bassist and trombonist Lester Lashley, saxophonist William Perry and drummer Andy Potter as examples of musicians who've played with Anderson and soaked up some of his influence.

"If you're interested in the history of jazz and improvised music in Chicago, you have to check out Fred," said Jeb Bishop, trombonist in his own group, the Jeb Bishop Trio, and in the Vandermark 5, both of which occasionally play at the Velvet Lounge. "If you don't you're missing something. Fred is one of the essential figures in jazz in Chicago; there's no question about that."

Vandermark, who received in 1999 a six-figure MacArthur Foundation "genius award" that has helped him put together such grand projects as his 12-piece, electro-acoustic Territory-3 Band, agreed. Regarding Anderson's importance in nurturing improvised music in Chicago, from the litany of internationally renowned players who've performed in his ensembles to the venues he's run, Vandermark said, "Everybody is aware of it. Whether they live in Chicago or New York or Stockholm, he's known as a major player in this music — with good reason."

Anderson said he's happy with his contribution — and his legacy. "As a kid I said, 'One day I'll be in a history book, the same one Charlie Parker is' — and I am," he said, referring to his inclusion in Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler's The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, published in 1999 by Oxford University Press (a revised edition of Feather's 1960 Encyclopedia of Jazz ).

But it's been a long climb into the limelight. "I'd seen Fred play in Chicago with his various groups when I first moved here in '89," Vandermark said. "I was really impressed by his individual approach to creativity and playing improvised music." Yet he noted: "Aside from in Chicago, people who knew him were a rarity. Now that's really changed. He's going to Europe, he's had a real renaissance in his career — not in terms of his playing but in terms of [people's] awareness of his music."

Vandermark made a 1997 record with his DKV Trio and Anderson on Bruno Johnson's Okka Disk label. He said Johnson is largely responsible for sparking the recent proliferation of Anderson CDs, beginning with the release of his "Vintage Duets" album, featuring drummer Steve McCall, in 1994. "He deserves a lot of credit for that," Vandermark said.

As for Anderson, he seems to continue to learn lessons from his forebears. Reminiscing again about Parker, he said, "Just imagine yourself being a jazz musician, and every night you come out 'nekkid' — and you've got to perform, you've got to come up with something a little bit different every night. Now you can imagine how creative you've got to be. I mean, you out there taking a chance, as soon as you walk out on stage you can either bomb or ... every night."

The Velvet Lounge is located at 2128 1/2 S. Indiana Ave. (one block east of Michigan, just north of Cermak), Chicago. Call (312) 791-9050, (888) 644-8007 or check for hours and performance schedule.

Fred Anderson Discography (15 albums):

Asian Improv Records

Fred Anderson Quartet Vol. 1: Live at the Velvet Lounge - 1999

Fred Anderson Quartet Vol. 2: Live at the Velvet Lounge - 2000 *

Atavistic (Unheard Music Series)

Dark Day+Live in Verona (1979) - 2001

The Milwaukee Tapes Vol. 1 (1980) - 2000 *

Delmark Records

On the Run: Live at the Velvet Lounge - 2001

Eremite Records

2 Days in April (with Kidd Jordan) - 2000

Moers Music

Another Place (import LP) - 1978 *


The Missing Link (1984, rec. 1979) - 1997

Okka Disk

Birdhouse - 1996 *

Destiny (with Marilyn Crispell) - 1995

Fred Anderson Trio: Live at the Velvet Lounge - 1999

Fred Anderson/DKV Trio - 1997

Vintage Duets (with Steve McCall, 1980) - 1994

Southport Records

FRED Chicago Chamber Music - 1997

Thrill Jockey

Duets 2001 (with Robert Barry) - 2001 *

(* recommended)

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