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Fred Anderson Quartet

Chicago tenor sax player Fred Anderson has been an active musician for three and a half decades, but his work has been sadly overlooked and underrecorded. Fortunately, Chicago experimentalist John Corbett has spearheaded a reexamination of Anderson's music, which has in turn led the artist to enjoy the greatest popularity of his career.

A formally trained musician, Anderson was strongly influenced by old school bop and swing tenor players like Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins, but he began playing professionally in the mid '60s, at a time when tenor players like Ornette Coleman and of course John Coltrane were "freeing" jazz of its restrictions and opening it to a myriad of new possibilities. Anderson's work features some of the best elements of both: it's smooth and elegant, marked by a pure, clear tone and assured legato phrasing, yet complex and active, bristling with sharp incisive ideas.

Anderson made Dark Day (featuring "Saxoon"), the rarest recording of his career (until revived by Atavistic), with a quartet that consisted of trumpeter Billy Brimfield and drummer Hamid Drake, both longtime Anderson friends and collaborators, and bassist Steven Palmore at a Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art performance in 1979. The day after the concert, the quartet left for its second tour of Europe. Four days later they recorded a scintillating performance in Verona, Italy, never before released but now packaged with the re-released Dark Day. Both sets display an intensely satisfying crispness and deepness of thought. The lush dialoguing of Anderson's tenor and Brimfield's trumpet is beautifully set off by dense, tropical rhythms, often featuring Drake on tablas. The two disc set is bookended by surprisingly different renditions of "Dark Day" (especially considering they were recorded four days apart), illustrating the spontaneity of the quartet's performances.

Anderson recorded The Milwaukee Tapes, including the featured "Bombay (Children of Cambodia)," sometime in late 1980 at a Milwaukee club whose name has long since been forgotten. Palmore had jumped ship by this time (in New York, after returning from the European tour), to be replaced by Larry Hayrod. Anderson and Brimfield's comfort together is evident throughout the The Milwaukee Tapes as they fluidly play off one another. On "Bombay," Drake plays tablas while Hayrod lays down a dark brooding bass line, giving the piece an exotic, humid atmosphere in which Anderson's velveteen sax and Brimfield's cheerful trumpet dance around one central idea.

Anderson was also known for being a founding member of the AACM, or Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a progressive Chicago-based musicians' collective whose members include Anthony Braxton and Lester Bowie. Today, after a fifteen year silence which began shortly after The Milwaukee Tapes, Anderson has begun recording again. He also performs regularly around the Chicago area with Drake on drums.