Fred Anderson: 21st Century Chase (2009)
To quote Roger Daltry of The Who, from 1965:
Why don't you all f-fade away (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
And don't try to dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-g-generation (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
This is my generation. This is my generation, baby.
It's not likely that anyone was thinking about the line, "I hope I die before I get old," at Fred Anderson's 80th birthday bash, a week-long celebration. Because, the seemingly eternal saxophonist continues to roll, playing at his famed Chicago Velvet Lounge.
The lineup for the night of his birthday, March 22 (the final night of performances) included the "youngster," Kidd Jordan, at the tender age of 74. Both Jordan, from New Orleans, and the Chicagoan Anderson were nurtured on traditional jazz, but have taken roads less traveled in the avant-garde, recording together a decade ago on 2 Days in April (Eremite, 1999).
With longtime collaborator/bassist Harrison Bankhead, the two tenors are joined by guitarist Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and drummer Chad Taylor, both collaborators in various Chicago Underground ensembles.
The music doesn't shy away from pure energy improvisation. Jordan's preference for the upper register is complemented by Anderson's fondness for the bottom. The pair boil and roil throughout, churning turbulent notes in their swirling jazz conception. Rooted, as much of Anderson's music is, in a solid sense of song form, touches of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Gene Ammons are heard. The "21st Century Chase Pt. 1" relies on the almost constant building of tension until 13 minutes into the track, where Jordan trades off with the computer-sounding guitar of Parker. Soon after, Taylor unleashes a solo that caps the energy. Jordan responds, tearing notes off until the drummer changes the pace to direct the track into its final 20 minutes.
The endurance of "Pt. 1" is given over to a bit of introspection on "Pt. 2," where Bankhead's bowed solo entrance calls for some more nuanced playing and Anderson trades with him, leaking notes as each player lurches in fits and starts of sound. The pressure builds constantly into a joyously noisy ending of Anderson quoting Coltrane's "Cousin Mary." "Ode To Alvin Fielder" opens with Parker's solo, and ambles in a post-bop swing that could be mistaken as a Sonny Rollins track. That is, if you were thinking of another musician nearing 80 years.
The birthday party comes in two forms, a CD and DVD. Choosing the DVD, with excellent sound (stereo, Dolby surround, or DTS surround) gets the bonus track "Gone But Not Forgotten," with guest bassist Henry Grimes. Bankhead switches to cello, and the two saxophonist take turns utilizing the strings as soundboards. Both players' use of repeated patterns is spellbinding. This nearly 90 minutes of music is a demanding and maybe exhausting experience. But neither of these two senior citizens seems a bit tired as they accept the crowd's love.
Track Listing: 21st Century Chase Pt. 1; 21st Century Chase Pt. 2; Ode To Alvin Fielder; Gone But Not Forgotten (DVD only).
Personnel: Fred Anderson: tenor saxophone; Kidd Jordan: tenor saxophone; Jeff Parker: guitar; Harrison Bankhead: bass, cello; Chad Taylor: drums; Henry Grimes: bass (DVD).