July 20, 2007
Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake
From the River to the Ocean
Thrill Jockey thrill 183 (www.thrilljockey.com)
Live Willisau & Taktlos
Intakt CD 104 (www.intaktrec.com)
Although recognition has only come to Chicagos Fred Anderson during the past 15 years, his role as and co-founder of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM) and as mentor for tyro players sometimes obscures his lineage as an accomplished post-bop tenor saxophonist. From the River to the Ocean should rectify that.
Here, the melodic tone and idea flow from the saxophone of Anderson (born in 1929) directly relate to how John Coltrane (1926) and Sonny Rollins (1930) construct solos. Couple this with the unusual setting that frames the reedist on different tracks with Jeff Parkers guitar; Harrison Bankheads bass, cello or piano; Josh Abrams bass or guimbri (Berber lute); and Hamid Drakes regular kit or frame drum; and the CD should impress even those who dismiss Anderson as an unapproachable avant-gardist.
Drake, Andersons best-known protégé, totted his drums to Switzerland for festival gigs with percussive Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer, captured on Live Willisau & Taktlos. Schweizer, whose position vis-à-vis Euro-Improv is analogous to Andersons with the AACM, has recorded memorable duo discs with a clutch of international percussionists. Her experience with Drake is just as rewarding. As an added bonus, Anderson sits in on three of the four tracks. Energized by the surroundings his tight, sharp contributions are more abstract than those on From the River .
Rollins-like echoes are present on Lives Schwandrake, with the saxophonists moderato patterns and runs referencing Newks past percussion discussions. This is especially clear when Schweizers internal string stopping and plucking complement Drakes hand drum displays.
Even more impressive is the reed work on From the Rivers Planet E and Sakti/Shiva. The later mixes spittle-encrusted reed cries with the guimbris bongo drum-like thumping to recall Rollins classic 1960s duets with bassist Bob Cranshaw. Planet E also references that era, not only in thick, rampaging bass chords and the drummers clattering cymbals, but also in the chiming, finger-picked licks from Parker, who almost channels Jim Hall.
Except for some scene-setting, diaphragm breaths behind Drakes Arabic chanting, Andersons Trane schedule is more pronounced on the Swiss CD. Whats profoundly atypical on From The River however, is the cohesive arrangement of Strut Time, a blues that recalls Halls 1950s tenure in drummer Chico Hamiltons minimalist quintet. Walking bass and drum shuffles linked to clean guitar finger-picking and bowed cello chords reinforce the message. But no one would confuse Andersons bluesy bellows with Buddy Collettes Cool Jazz articulation in Hamiltons combo.
Furthermore Anderson is completely himself on Lives defining track, the almost 28½-minute Trinity. Lacerating split tones and nephritic honking energize his solo, which erupts after Schweizers conveyor belt of syncopated octave jumps and piles of clipped notes establish the tunes parameters. Drakes characteristic rhythmic invention almost wilts as his elders communicate fortissimo. Billowing glissandi plus focused needle-like jabs undulate from Schweizers fingers, as the saxophonist counters with rough-shod split tones. Eventually, the two connect as the pianists key ruffling settles into a near-groove and the saxophonists flutter tonguing accepts the underlying swing sensibility.
Relaxed and inventive in his duo with Schweizers hunt-and-peck rhythms and kinetic dynamics, Drakes MVP status is confirmed on both discs. Overseas he seconds a first meeting between simpatico improvisers; in Chicago he helps pilot what could be the veteran saxophonists most passionate and personal statement.
— Ken Waxman
CODA Issue 334