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Fred Anderson: Timeless-Live at the Velvet Lounge

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Get any group of free jazzers together, turn ’em loose and chances are they’ll spontaneously hit upon the strategies used here: pedal-point polymetric incantations, free-time balladry and restive call-and-response, among others. Few, however, will do it as well as this trio of tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson, bassist Harrison Bankhead and drummer Hamid Drake.

When I last encountered Anderson and Drake, they were joined by William Parker on last year’s Blue Winter, an earnest but rambling meeting that in some quarters drew raves (undeserved, in my opinion). This album is much better. Bankhead takes over for Parker, with impressive results. He’s every bit as creative as Parker and vastly superior in terms of playing time and staying in-tune. With Drake, Bankhead forms a rhythm section as solid as a rock and as supple as Shakira’s midriff. Drake continues to show why he’s one of jazz’s finest drummers, combining powerful chops with a singular ability to interact. Each of Anderson’s stream-of-consciousness phrases is unique unto itself. His elliptical lines move in, around, above and below the rhythm section, engaging then disengaging the rhythm and harmony with a gruff capriciousness. With Bankhead in the bass chair, this is one of the best trios going.