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January/February 2005

Fred Anderson/Hamid Drake
Back Together Again
Thrill Jockey

Fred Anderson is one of the more steadfastly jazz-based original members of Chicago's seminal AACM. His music tends to be not nearly so conceptually inclined as Roscoe Mitchell's or Anthony Braxton's, for example, but relates more directly to John Coltrane's enhanced-modal version of free jazz. Like Anderson, percussionist Hamid Drake thrives in a slightly unhinged but nonetheless swinging context. Here, with a couple of exceptions, the duo works in a groove- and swing-based format.

On tunes like "Leap Forward" and "Losel Drolma" Drake's tight, near-hypnotic hand drumming is a slowly evolving minimalist anchor over which Anderson floats gruff, scrawling minor-bluesish tenor lines. The percussionist's drum-set work (on "Black Women" and the title track, for example) is, in contrast, a great deal looser and more contingent on moment-to-moment interaction with Anderson's tenor. The saxophonist is an intuitive, seat-of-the-pants soloist, and every note sounds as if it springs forth unfiltered, yet he seems never to lose focus.

This is no over-the-top, Interstellar Space-type effort; while there are brief hyper-energetic episodes, mostly a quiet consideration pervades the music. That's unusual, given the format, and quite welcome. This is a very solid, occasionally superlative session-proof positive that the best jazz coming from Chicago still has its roots in the AACM.

Originally published in January/February 2005
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