Tenor saxophonist-composer Fred Anderson is one of Chicago’s finest and most revered musicians, as he seems to be enjoying more widespread notoriety now than in the recent past. An original member of the AACM (Association for the Advancement for Creative Musicians) and unsung hero during the early days of Chicago’s free-jazz scene, Mr. Anderson is also the proprietor and frequent performer at “The Velvet Lounge” which is located near Chicago’s Chinatown vicinity. With Volume Two of the 2-CD “Fred Anderson Quartet” Recorded Live at the Velvet Lounge, the esteemed saxophonist-composer displays enviable chops and acute improvisational speak while reaffirming his stature as a major force in modern jazz.
Mr. Anderson possesses a deep, rugged tone while portraying a starkly lyrical yet altogether vigorous approach to his craft while often performing in a workmanlike, no-nonsense manner. Throughout these extended pieces, the saxophonist enjoys fine support from drummer Hamid Drake, bassist Tatsu Aoki and guitarist Jeff Parker for a series of works that includes the full-steam-ahead opener, “Look Out”, and the well-rounded, multidimensional 37-minute improv tour de force, “Road Trip”. From the onset, the band hits you with the impact of a freight train, that can’t slow down yet the musicians have much more up their sleeve, which is evident on “Exotic Dreams”. Here, the great drummer and proponent of multi-layered rhythmic structures, Hamid Drake performs rolling African style fills on his toms as Aoki mangles his bass strings with artful passion while Parker strums steely edged chords and displays a keen penchant for harmonics. With “Jeffs Turnaround” the band engages some solid rock-funk grooves as Anderson blows fervent lines in the classic R&B tradition yet injects odd-metered nuance and clever phraseology into this mixed bag of vibrant soul/jazz drenched themes.
All in all an extremely supercharged set, yet it did take me awhile to acquire a comfort zone with guitarist Jeff Parker’s choppy and somewhat fragmented lead soloing although the guitarist does exhibit a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of jazz chords as he expertly comps and articulates unorthodox lines. Hence, Live at the Velvet Lounge Volume 2 represents gritty, hard driving jazz complete with all of the niceties and forceful impact most would expect from Mr. Anderson and his associates. - A strong and thoroughly – happening – event documented for our listening pleasure!
* * * 1/2 (out of * * * * *)
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