Fred Anderson

Back at the Velvet Lounge

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At the time of this 2002 recording, tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson was 74 and had been leading the house band at Chicago's Velvet Lounge for 21 years. There has been no mellowing in his adventurous flights and Anderson, who has a huge tone and sometimes hints at Sonny Rollins and (to a lesser extent) Gene Ammons, always pushes himself. His five lengthy originals are challenging yet loose enough for the musicians to be quite spontaneous. Trumpeter Maurice Brown (52 years Anderson's junior and sounding at times like early Don Cherry) shows lots of potential, the pianoless rhythm section is stimulating and supportive, and guest Harrison Bankhead helps out by playing acoustic guitar on "Job Market Blues" and bass on the first two numbers. "Fougeux" is a straight-ahead blowout, "Olivia" (which features two bassists) starts out as a ballad before getting more heated, "Job Market Blues" is a long jam over a one-chord vamp (rather than being an actual blues), and "Syene" is a mysterious strut with Brown's most rewarding solo of the live set. Saving the best for last, the final number of the CD, "King Fish," has some funky playing by bassist Tatsu Aoki and drummer Chad Taylor that leads to some colorful free bop interplay by the two horns over the walking bass. Although technically "avant-garde," the music on this lively outing should interest straight-ahead jazz fans too, for these Chicago-based musicians are all worthy of greater recognition.

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