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Fred Anderson: New Velvet

Fred Anderson

Chicago-based tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson was already an underground legend in 1982 when he bought Tip’s Tavern, a small neighborhood bar on Indiana Avenue that he’d been running for several years, and rechristened it the Velvet Lounge. A founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in the ’60s, Anderson was an important (but, at the time, mostly unheralded) figure in the evolution of what became known as “free jazz”-something of a misnomer, as Anderson emphasizes, because it takes at least as much discipline to create coherent music without a template as it does to improvise from a written score.

Inspired by Bird and schooled in Chicago’s brawny “tough tenor” tradition (think Gene Ammons), Anderson expanded on his mentors’ vision. Not content to merely improvise on tunes, he began to develop the style he’s known for today, in which he mines chord structures-of melodies, riffs or spontaneously created patterns-for improvisational ideas. These ideas then imply new harmonic and rhythmic textures which, in turn, fuel yet another series of variations. The result is a densely concentric interweaving, endlessly shifting yet still grounded-albeit often loosely-in the original framework laid down by Anderson and his collaborators.

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