Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Farewell Fred Anderson

Since his passing last week, I've been reading plenty of tributes to saxophonist, composer and club owner Fred Anderson.  He lived a busy life, playing and working (mostly) in Chicago.  Born in Louisiana, he moved up north to the Windy City with his mother when he was fairly young and stayed.  Perhaps best known as one of the founders of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Anderson was a champion of young musicians and a consummate tenor saxophonist. To these ears, his style was built from the powerful tenor traditions of the 40s and 50s (a real basis in the blues) plus a keen appreciation for the work of John Coltrane.  Unlike many of his contemporaries, Anderson rarely screeched or squawked or even played in the higher registers of his instrument yet always pushed and pulled at rhythms.  He loved to work with strong drummers, people like Steve McCall, Robert Barry and Hamid Drake.  He also favored playing in smaller ensembles, duo, trio and quartet settings, creating longer works filled with interplay and solos that took plenty of time to develop. You can find many of his recordings on the Chicago-based Delmark Records and Thrill Jockey labels as well as the Okka Disk label from Milwaukee.

Anderson opened The Velvet Lounge on the South Side of Chicago in the early 1980s and could often there tending bar and listening to young players.  Many of the fine young Chicago-area musicians have worked there, from Ken Vandermark to guitarist Jeff Parker to saxophonist Matana Roberts to the post-rock Tortoise.  The club has live music 5 nights a week and is often crowded with jazz fans from around the world.

No one knows if Fred Anderson could have or would have been a bigger star if he had left Chicago and settled in New York City (like so many jazz players have down since the 1920s.)  But, his fine music and honest approach to fellow musicians made him quite a stellar person to many people.

On the last month, the jazz/creative music worldhas lost Mr. Anderson, trumpeter/conceptualist Bill Dixon and trombonist Benny Powell.  All brought special gifts to this world and all will be missed.

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