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Fred Anderson: Back at the Velvet Lounge

Septuagenarian saxophonist Fred Anderson has managed Chicago’s Velvet Lounge since the early 1980s, holding court both behind the bar and on the weathered stage. In 1998, Okka Disk captured him in this natural habitat, with an album simply titled Live at the Velvet Lounge. The Asian Improv label soon followed suit, with two separate discs. And in 2001, Delmark Records entered the fray, with On the Run: Live at the Velvet Lounge. So Back at the Velvet Lounge, again on Delmark, has some pedigree.

Unlike earlier Velvet Lounge recordings, most of which featured Anderson with a trio, this disc has the tenor man leading a full quintet. Frequent collaborators Tatsu Aoki and Chad Taylor reprise their stalwart roles on bass and drums, respectively. Guitarist Jeff Parker solos coolly and convincingly (and not nearly often enough). The young trumpeter Maurice Brown performs unevenly-some solos are significantly stronger than others-but ultimately makes a solid contribution. And a sixth man, Harrison Bankhead, contributes nice additional bass work but sounds clearly out of his element playing acoustic guitar on the rambling “Job Market Blues.” The ensemble as a whole, anchored by Taylor and Aoki, demonstrates both an effortless elasticity and the willingness to let a good groove lie.

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