Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Chicago Trio’s ‘Velvet Songs’

Ernest Dawkins, Harrison Bankhead & Hamid Drake pay tribute to Fred Anderson

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
Chicago Trio Velvet Songs cover

Fred Anderson passed away in June 2010, leaving behind the legacy of not only his inimitable sax playing, but also of his clubs, the Birdhouse and the Velvet Lounge, in Chicago. He was “Baba” or “Father” figuratively to many musicians, including saxophone player Ernest Dawkins and bassist Harrison Bankhead. He was “Baba” literally to drummer Hamid Drake when the two of them moved from Monroe, La., to Evanston, Ill., early in Drake’s life. #Velvet Songs# was put together in 2011, but was recorded by the trio of Dawkins, Bankhead and Drake at the Velvet Lounge in 2008. That the group sounds concurrently energetic is no surprise.

In fact, Dawkins and Bankhead have never sounded so alive. Dawkins’ performance on soprano, alto and tenor boasts melodic phrases, bluesy voices and out-of-bounds expressions. His soprano work sends poignant musical messages, especially in the opening pieces of both sessions and “Moi Tre Gran Garcon.” His solo intro on alto in “One for Fred” continues into abstractions that land in a weighted statement to close the second session. Dawkins’ whistle-blowing, bell-ringing, tapping and rattle shaking fill in details that round off edges and lend a special oomph that would be missed if the sounds were not there.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published