Tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson, one of the founding members of the Associateion for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) has a spotty recording output. This creative force in free jazz has made amends over the last five years with strong CDs including Timeless: Live at the Velvet Lounge (Delmark, 2006), Back Together Again (Thrill Jockey, 2004) and From the River to the Ocean (Thrill Jockey, 2007), on which he showed that he could still play with creative energy. He continues Staying in the Game with bassist Harrison Bankhead and drummer Tim Daisy.
Anderson plays with compact, yet understated power and a tone that's pure and devoid of theatrics, as he delves into nuances and brings them to the surface; a craftsman who hasn't lost his touch. The opening "Sunday Afternoon" is a 24 minute-plus travelogue on which he comes full circle, playing a treat of notes and phrases. His intonation, as it moves across the register, and his timing that shifts the pulse, blood the composition. By the time the last note falls, Anderson shows the many ways a tune can be essayed and designed to take it to the peak of artistry.
"Springing Water" is a more insightful look at the way Anderson rides on the range of free jazz. He excises the composition, spinning hard hitting lines at high speed and transforming it into a roiling, intense, and masterful testimony.
Bankhead and Daisy are also integral to the success of the music. Daisy sculpts the beat with thunderous accents and rolling rhythms on "Changes and Bodies and Tones," while Bankhead comes in with askance arco. The freedom is eclipsed by Anderson, who lays down a firm melodic path. Form is now the crux and stays to make its own remarkable statement.
Anderson shows that he is still a stimulating and potent presence. Hopefully, there will be more music on record in the future.
Personnel: Fred Anderson: tenor saxophone; Harrison Bankhead: bass; Tim Daisy: drums.