Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fred Anderson - Staying in the Game (Engine Records, 2009)

Veteran saxophonist Fred Anderson sets at the nexus of jazz history, growing up during the swing era, playing bop, helping to found the AACM and developing a unique approach to free jazz in addition to founding one of the most famous jazz clubs in Chicago, The Velvet Lounge. This is a spare trio recording where everything is pared back to the minimum, including a recycled cardboard cover with sparse information. Anderson is paired with frequent collaborator Harrison Bankhead on bass and Tim Daisy on drums. But the music truly speaks for itself, beginning with the lengthy track "Sunday Afternoon" which builds slowly to a free flowing peak of intensity before drifting into a slower section with prominent bowed bass. "The Elephant and the Bee" focuses on tenor saxophone and bass, with Bankhead switching back and forth between bowed and plucked bass. Two of the best performances on the album were inspired by some unusually warm weather in Chicago at the time of the recording. "60 Degrees in November" has rolling drums and piercing tenor saxophone with Coltrane overtones in a concentrated and exciting trio performance. "Springing Winter" pushes the intensity level even higher, with Daisy keeping the intensity high from the drum chair and Anderson responding with deep, pungent tenor saxophone, this tracks calls to mind the extemporaneous and freewheeling interaction of John Coltrane and Rashied Ali in Interstellar Space. "Wandering" calms things down a little bit, with the addition of the addition of thumb piano giving the music an exotic and wistful feel. This was a fine and collaborative album that made me think of statements made by the likes of Jackie McLean and Duke Ellington about the inclusiveness of jazz. Anderson has nearly the entire history of the music in his memory and he draws upon that knowledge to make heartfelt and thoughtful music.
Staying in the Game - amazon.com

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