Fred Anderson: 21st Century Chase (2009)
There are few more thrilling sounds in jazz than the twin tenors of Fred Anderson and Kidd Jordan in aerobatic flight. Though they play together in person on at least an annual basis, including headline appearances at the Vision Festival in 2005 and 2008, this is the first time they have appeared together on disc since the classic Two Days in April (Eremite, 1999). Anderson came up with the title in homage to a storied encounter between Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray, and also as an allusion to how he and Jordan simultaneously complement and feed off of each other.
Though it's Anderson's name on the marquee, perhaps in honor of this being his 80th birthday celebration, Jordan deserves at least equal billing. It's his distinctive falsetto that kicks off the disc in a brief soliloquy piquant with vocal cries, before Anderson fuses his familiar cadences for a match made in heaven. Played out over three tracks in a 69-minute program recorded at Anderson's legendary Velvet Lounge in Chicago, the leading men make light of their ages in an exhibition of high energy alchemy. Jordan loosely orchestrates the contours of the ebb and flow, contrasting his uplifting squeals with Anderson's muscular middle register variations, with invigorating coalescences around impromptu blues riffs.
Spontaneous interplay generating tension and release characterizes the group aesthetic. Chad Taylor's responsive drums purvey the elastic foundations on which these guys thrive, while Harrison Bankhead's flexible bass prompts and probes the interstices between the horns. Jeff Parker carefully inserts himself into the ensembles, though shines on "21st Century Chase Pt. 1" after 11 minutes in an astonishing duet between his liquid drops distilled low on the fretboard and Jordan's squalling upper partials. "21st Century Chase Pt. 2" boasts a spacey start replete with multiphonic atmospherics, while "Ode to Alvin Fielder" commences with Parker's guitar alone, then turns bop-ish with Bankhead's sprightly walking goosed by Taylor's brushes. But the intensity inevitably builds until the dual tenors are testifying with the unbounded spirit which erupts on every track as if the two principals cannot contain the force inside themselves.
With the performance also available as a DVD, there is a choice to be made. A comparatively restrained bonus track features special guest Henry Grimes on bass with Bankhead switching to cello, moving from a skittering start to a riffing conclusion. Unobtrusively filmed from multiple viewpoints, with generally low key effects and cuts between shots, the visuals give an extra dimension to the music by exposing the interaction on the bandstand, particularly Jordan's guiding hand and the shared cues between the horn men. An insightful commentary track from Anderson rounds out the package. If forced to choose between the two formats, the added value of the DVD just shades it.
Track Listing: 21st Century Chase Pt. I; 21st Century Chase Pt. II; Ode to Alvin Fielder; Gone But Not Forgotten (DVD).
Personnel: Fred Anderson: tenor saxophone; Kidd Jordan: tenor saxophone; Jeff Parker: guitar; Harrison Bankhead: bass, cello (4); Henry Grimes: bass (4); Chad Taylor: drums.