Fred Anderson. Harrison Bankhead. Hamid Drake. For those in the know, that's practically a guarantee of a good performance and Timeless: Live at the Velvet Lounge doesn't disappoint. It captures the 75-year-old saxophone titan with his working trio, live on his home turf at Chicago's (and Anderson's) Velvet Lounge. Fred Anderson is a supremely melodic and patient improviser who is never short on ideas but is never in a rush to get them out. Combine that with an amazingly gifted and responsive rhythm section and you get pieces that are so inherently tuneful you might be surprised they're free improvisations. The whole performance is practically a non-stop series of highlights, although the title track alone might be worth the price of admission. The interplay between these players is simply amazing; improvised music doesn't get much better than this.
But as great as the music is, Delmark made a brilliant move by filming the sets as well, providing not just a document of the show itself but a document of the original location of the tiny but revered Velvet Lounge. It's a high-quality multi-camera shoot that almost feels like you're in the room (it really was a tiny club). There's also a great interview with the soft-spoken Anderson who discusses (among other things) his early years in Chicago and the founding of the AACM. He also ironically mentions being turned down by Bob Koester (Delmark Records' founder) for a record deal back in the '60s. Anderson fans should not miss this. [The entire program was also filmed and is available as a DVD that Anderson fans will surely want.]