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Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake: From the River to the Ocean

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Tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson and percussionist Hamid Drake have worked often with guitarist Greg Parker and bassists Harrison Bankhead and Josh Abrams at Anderson’s Velvet Lounge in Chicago; listening to them here is like dropping in on a long-running conversation. Most of Anderson’s improvisational ideas will probably also sound familiar. But he brings such immediacy and soul-stirring dedication to them that even the tried-and-true becomes reborn.

Anderson doesn’t usually play changes per se-he states a theme that he and his colleagues are then free to elaborate upon, depart from, return to, or even entirely reconstruct as they see fit. In this sense, “Strut Time” is anomalous: based on a swinging two-chord vamp, it stays in the same groove throughout its 21-minute-plus run. Even here, though, Anderson discovers virtually endless possibilities, unfurling solos that circle back and invert themselves like Möbius strips.

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