Fred Anderson

The Missing Link

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This set, which features Anderson on tenor, or course, sided by Hamid Drake on drums, Larry Hayrod on bass, and Adam Rudolph on percussion, was recorded by Chuck Nessa in 1979, while the mighty saxophone player was in his late 50s and at the height of his obscurity. Only Moers Music in Germany had issued another Anderson record in the late '70s. Why he was so obscure is anybody's guess, based on the quality of the recordings. Here, Anderson's landmark tone, harmonic invention, and odd melodic preoccupation with atonality and dissonance are marked for what they are. Anderson is as much a theorist as a blower, and The Missing Link is the evidence for this, perhaps the best there is. His notion of the quartet being one extended, four-sided voice with a bottom more rounded out and full than the top is the extension of a formula that includes great control over dynamics, and a drummer and percussionist who work with each other to further not only the beat but the sound of the band (check "Twilight" and "The Bull") as much as the music they play. For his part, Anderson is pushing the blues; however elongated and angular, they are recognizable as such and are the spiritual conscience of all the music he plays here. The bassist's role is unique: to play the melodist and add spatial and durational elegance to the insistent, at times even boisterous approach by the rest of the band. But in a lyric mode, such as "A Ballad for Rita," Hayrod shines so black he's blue. This band becomes the four-sided voice of the dream, carrying a sweet yet toughened-up blues back to the streets from the heavens.

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