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May 2004

Fred Anderson/Hamid Drake
Back Together Again
Thrill Jockey

Tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson and drummer Hamid Drake both hail from Monroe, La., but because a few decades separate their ages they didn't meet until years later after both were living and playing in Chicago. Since then, they've frequently worked together, but this marks their first duo outing, and it comes three years after Thrill Jockey paired the saxophonist with former Sun Ra drummer Robert Barry.

The eight tracks are likely spontaneous improvisations, but each has a structural focus in rhythm and melody. Neither musician pushes at the other too aggressively, preferring instead to move in tandem, an approach that fits a track like "Black Women." Here, Anderson unravels a thoughtful minor melody that recalls Crescent-era John Coltrane. Against his flowing lines, Drake sustains a heavy swing, consistently moving around his whole drum kit. Things get kicked up a notch in "Know Your Advantage (The Great Tradition)," with both men playing off of each other's rhythmic ideas, press rolls mixing with snaky tenor lines.

The instrumentation makes the music sound a bit spare, especially when Drake switches from the trap kit to hand drums. This initially seems like a disadvantage in "Lama Khygenno (Heart's Beloved)," a 12-minute meditation where Drake chants along with Anderson's sax without building beyond a certain volume and groove. However, a bonus disc includes footage of this recording-along with one other track and two interviews. Seeing the performance offers a better appreciation for the duo's intuitive rapport, such as the call-and-response quality between the duo and Drake's ability to create a pulse and pitch with his hands. He uses similar approach on the title track, taking a rhythmic hook and reshaping it without losing the feel of the initial idea.

Originally published in May 2004
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