Saturday, June 26, 2010

Archie Shepp, Phat Jam in Milano, Dawn of Freedom

So I was thinking the other day I wonder what Archie Shepp has been up to and of course I Googled it and I found Archie here working with my man Napoleon Maddox, late of Iswhat?!, which might have been the best melding of jazz and hip-hop ever, and now I see they're severely, and correctly, bad-rapping George W. Bush and his era, rightly so, among other things, plus Oliver Lake, Joe Fonda and Hamid Drake are playing on this and I'm saying, damn, you talk about supergroups, gotta love it, and the saxophone playing kills, too.

Fred Anderson, Dark Day, Atavistic

Like The Missing LInk this is a 1979 session, recorded live in Italy, but with the addition of another horn, Fred's musical compadre trumpeter Bill Brimfield, which offers a different view of Fred at his heights.

Fred's marvelous, inventive solos that sometimes make you feel like you're listening to sounds from another dimension are here in very healthy measure, in extended pieces barely clocking in at less than 11 minutes and running up to a half hour in a couple cases. Most striking to me, however, is what a good ensemble player Fred also was as he interacts with Brimfield, Steve Palmore on bass and, as on The Missing Link, his favorite drummer Hamid Drake, so young he's still listed as Hank.

As an aside, titles from Atavistic's Unheard Music Series, of which this is a part, are always excellent in my experience.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fred Anderson, The Missing Link, Nessa

I own a dozen CDs from the great Chicago tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson, who passed away at 81 Thursday. Almost any of the live sessions at Fred's Velvet Lounge is wonderful. (He was still playing wonderfully when I heard him on the occasion of his 81st birthday this spring.) But if I had to suggest a disk to turn someone on to Mr. Anderson for the first time, it might be The Missing Link.

It's a 1979 date with drummer Hamid Drake, the musician with whom Fred was maybe most symbiotic, the notable Adam Rudolph on percussion and on bass Larry Hayrod, who seems to know how to play with Mr. A about as sympathetically as Harrison Bankhead or Tatsu Aoki, two other bassists with whom Fred clearly dug playing.

More importantly, what you get is Fred at his most robust, sound fully developed, although he would tweak it for the rest of his life, and playing in a way that clearly illustrates his inventive straddling of Charlie Parker and Lester Young, his first influences, and Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler, and beyond. I don't know that anyone else, any saxophonist anyway, with the possible exception of Sonny Rollins, has ever been better at tying together the idoms of bop and post-bop jazz of the late 1940s to early 1960s and the avant-garde jazz of the late1960s and the 1970s. And then he kept retooling it for the '80s, '90s and 2000s, always sounding modern, yet his roots in the tradition always evident. Fred's music may have been "outside," but it was never inaccessible and ever lyrical. I'll miss him.