Fred Anderson's sound on tenor can be heard in his stance. With his horn hung on a harness that looks like something a moving man would wear as he prepares to hoist a TV, Anderson bends his knees and hunches over as if muscle more than breath is needed to lift the notes into the air. He doesn't double on other instruments. His improvising vocabulary is drawn from a series of exercises he's developed over the decades and keeps in a notebook. At the age of 80, Anderson is old school by definition, but his workmanlike approach and artistic honesty have made him a vital and creative force on the free jazz scene.
Anderson's recording career began to flourish in the late '90s, most of it resulting from gigs at the club he owns in Chicago, the Velvet Lounge. The Velvet is Anderson's home turf and sanctuary for free jazz veterans and up-and-comers alike. Live at the Velvet Lounge Volume III is a collaboration with another organization with a do-it-yourself ethos, the Asian Improv Arts Group, and documents a performance from the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival in 2007. Playing with Anderson are the Arts Group's cofounder and tenor saxophonist Francis Wong and the longtime Anderson sidemen Tatsu Aoki (bass) and Chad Taylor (drums).
On second saxophone, Wong sounds like an Anderson student, his lines just a little bit less weighty than the mentor's but equally well-thought-out and coherent, seamlessly complementing Anderson's lead. Aoki's tone on the upright bass is fat and resonant while Taylor is controlled and authoritative behind the drum kit. The band supports Anderson, but his unadorned and deliberate style allows the rhythm section to supply the flourishes as they change tempos and timbres. It's as if the horns take the musical cues, rather than supply them. When this band locks into one of its beefy grooves, the effect of the give-and-take among the four parts can be dizzying.
Track Listing: Andersonville; Acceleration; Beyond the Bridge; Positive Changes; Best Time of Life; Discreet Indentifier.
Personnel: Fred Anderson: tenor saxophone; Francis Wong: tenor saxophone; Tatsu Aoki: bass; Chad Taylor: drums.
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