Of all the players who have come through Fred Anderson's training ground in Chicago, none has been more closely identified with him than drummer Hamid Drake. But as demand for Drake's services has grown, so has his time away from Chicago and it's drummer Chad Taylor who has filled the void. Not coincidentally, Taylor is behind the kit for these two birthday concerts, recorded nine years apart.
In 2000 it was the Fred Anderson Trio that commemorated the leader's 71st, with Taylor and Tatsu Aoki on bass. Labeled an "official bootleg" (and distributed in limited supply), Birthday Live 2000 captures Anderson as a steamroller running roughshod over the bedrock rhythms established by Taylor's skilled work around the rims and Aoki's resonating neck-bending. The sound at times is rawer than we're used to from Anderson recordings. On "Track 1" the tenor has a metallic leading edge that infuses the playing with urgency and an element of danger. As the program continues, it's Anderson's authoritative blues-drenched sound and boundless creativity that whip Aoki and Taylor into shape.
In a time-honored tradition , Anderson celebrated his 80th birthday in a tenor battle with Kidd Jordan (six years his junior), Chad Taylor and bassist Harrison Bankhead in the rhythm section and guitarist Jeff Parker sitting in. The two couldn't be more complementary on 21st Century Chase. Jordan likes to wander around the high end while Anderson does the heavy low-end lifting. "Part I" is long, just over 36 minutes, but it moves, with Parker's guitar bouncing off Jordan's flinty sax like marbles on kitchen tile. "Part II" features some electronic whistling that's probably Parker but could be Jordan and when Jordan interjects a few of Coltrane's licks, you get the feeling Anderson would never do such a thing, his own aesthetic having been too finely honed. The program closes with a tune dedicated to original AACM drummer Alvin Fielder and its funky groovy finish makes explicit the Chicago drumline that runs from Fielder through Drake to Chad Taylor.
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