Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake - From the River to the Ocean (Thrill Jockey, 2007)

Tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson and drummer Hamid Drake have long explored the intersection there the constraints of hard bop meet the openness of free jazz. On this disc, they are joined by Jeff Parker on guitar, Harrison Bankhead on cello, piano and bass and Josh Abrams on bass and guimbri. The first two tracks on the album are quite lengthy, and they never build up quite enough steam to make a definitive statement. There is some probing saxophone from Anderson and guitar from Parker, and Drake simmers as usual, but the tracks take a very long time exploring some relatively pedestrian terrain. Things pick up considerably on the second half of the disc. A tribute to the recently deceased Malachai Thompson "For Brother Thompson" establishes a strong spiritual groove and Anderson solos deeply and profoundly. The track comes in at a more nimble seven minutes and this pithy performance is the highlight of the album. The final tracks "Sakti/Shiva" and "From the River to the Ocean" keep the spiritual groove present with an exotic flavor from Abrams' guimbri (a light sounding three string lute) and Drake's constantly shifting rhythms. This long disc does take some time to pick up speed, but eventually it does bring some very interesting music to the table. Fans of the Chicago music scene will want to check this out.

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