Fred Anderson

Black Horn Long Gone
Southport S-SSD 0128

Celebration rather than lamentation, Black Horn Long Gone’s apt but ungrammatical title was tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson’s response when asked what happened to the sleek ebony horn he played on this early 1993 session. Unfortunately his death at 80 in late June, gives the CD an added poignancy to the statement, not initially envisioned when this CD release was planned.

Metaphorically – and literally – “long gone” are also the two musicians who accompany Anderson (born 1929) on this high quality session. Both bassist Malachi Favors Maghostut (1927-2004) and drummer Ajaramu (1926-2006) were the saxophonist’s long time Chicago associates in the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Separately over the years, Favors, linchpin of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Ajaramu were stylistic chameleons, able to work with everyone from tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons to pianist Muhal Richard Abrams. Together, they were more than a rhythm section. Their individual inventiveness dovetails with Anderson distinctive horn cadences on the eight tunes here to produce almost ineffable results.

Ironically – or perhaps appropriately – neither takes part on “Ode to Clifford Jordan”, the set’s only real semi-dirge. Honoring Jordan, another legendary Chicagoan saxophonist born in 1931, who was then deathly ill and would die two months after this set was recorded, it’s an a capella statement by Anderson alone. Expressed in rubato harmonies and rhythmic movements, the pauses and keening held notes celebrate someone who began playing at the same time as Anderson, but whose mainstream aspirations and New York tenure no way paralleled the Chicagoan’s life. Edifyingly, the allegro sibilant runs and heavily breathed pauses exposed throughout never touch on Jordan’s playing but are firmly Anderson’s.

On board for the set’s other tracks, Favors and Ajaramu are unobtrusive and low-key in their accompaniment. The drummer’s game plan involves steady cymbal clanging plus slaps, drags, clatters and strokes on the drums themselves – rhythmically flowing while simultaneously accenting Anderson’s reed excursions. Favors’ loping bass work evolves the same way. When he gets a solo, as on the track that bears his name and elsewhere, his tone is both mobile and molten, using double-popped throbs to unite with the drummer’s cymbal clanking behind the saxophonist’s pitch alterations and double tonguing.

In the company of old friends, Anderson takes care of business here on some of his often-recorded compositions and some new ones. Frequently sluicing from largo to andante tempos, the saxophonist – a mere 64 at the time – is confident enough of his own talents to never rush the tempo or indulge in excessive fortissimo. Despite sporadic honks peeping through the circumference of tongue vibrations, his intonation is too courteous to reach R&B excesses.

As a matter of fact on “The Strut Time’, which is likely a modernized version of the sort of nightclub riff the trio members would have played coming up in the 1950s and 1960s, his sinewy reed expressions and note-studded yet relaxed, soloing suggests that of Dexter Gordon. Again there’s no exact quoting, but Anderson’s primordial cool while tongue-fluttering brings to mind Gordon’s magisterial sense of swing.

Anderson will never be as famous as Gordon (1923-1989) – who after all, did receive an Oscar nomination [!] for his acting [!!] – but his influence on younger musicians towards Free Jazz was as profound as Gordon’s hold on nascent Beboppers of the 1970s and 1980s. Nevertheless Black Horn Long Gone is an important discovery, since it features another example of Anderson, expressing his mature style in the sympathetic company of equally adept veteran improvisers.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Wandering 2. Our Theme 3. Saxoon 4. Three on Two 5. Bernice 6. The Strut Time 7. Malachi’s Tune 8. Ode to Clifford Jordan

Personnel: Fred Anderson (tenor saxophone); Malachi Favors Maghostut (bass) and Ajaramu (drums)