Fred Anderson

On the Run: Live at the Velvet Lounge

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When Fred Anderson entered his seventies in 1999, the Chicago-based tenor sax veteran showed no signs of slowing down. His avant-garde improvisations were as passionate and arresting as ever, and he kept busy owning and operating a Windy City jazz club called the Velvet Lounge. Recorded at his Velvet Lounge in March 2000, this generally excellent CD finds a 71-year-old Anderson leading a piano-less trio that boasts Tatsu Aoki on upright bass and Hamid Drake on drums. Both are fellow Chicagoans, and both of them enjoy a strong rapport with Anderson on extended inside/outside performances such as the 18-minute "Tatsu's Groove," the 19-minute "Smooth Velvet," and the 16-minute "On the Run." Like John Coltrane, Anderson can be long-winded -- and like Coltrane, he is such a wealth of creativity and imagination that his excesses can easily be forgiven. Those excesses, in fact, can even be enjoyable if you are among Anderson's die-hard devotees. Throughout the CD, Anderson never sounds the least bit inhibited; of course, being uninhibited is easier when you're playing at your own club. At his Velvet Lounge, Anderson is in the driver's seat. He doesn't have to worry about a club owner complaining that he doesn't play enough overdone standards, he isn't asked to feature predictable Sarah Vaughn clones who haven't a fraction of Sassy's soulfulness, and he doesn't have to explain his music to a booking agent who fails to comprehend avant-garde jazz. On the Run: Live at the Velvet Lounge is Anderson on his own terms and his own turf -- he's calling the shots, and for listeners, that's a very good thing.

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