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Fred Anderson Trio: Live at the Velvet Lounge

Chicago tenor titan Fred Anderson is now receiving the documentation he deserved decades ago. Credit Okka Disk in taking the lead, as Live at the Velvet Lounge is the Chicago-based label’s fifth album to feature Anderson in the last five years. Anderson’s strength as a player and his stature as mentor and inspiration to successive waves of Chicago musicians, however, was bound to attract labels outside of Chicago; it’s fitting that a community-minded label like Asian Improv is on the case with Volume One, also recorded at Anderson’s fabled Velvet Lounge.

These expansive live performances are a testament to Anderson’s strength, stamina, and focus. His lengthy essays strike a unique accommodation of self-reinforcing design and form-melting fire. Even at his most quietly meditative, Anderson has a searing intensity that countless other tenor players vainly bust their guts to approximate. Much has been made of Anderson as the missing link between Coltrane and the AACM, but Anderson neither wears overt spiritualism or revolutionary zeal on his sleeve. As Ken Vandermark reports in his liner notes, Anderson was restocking the beer cases an hour after Live at the Velvet Lounge was recorded, a strong metaphor for Anderson’s approach-an everyday Zen with equal emphasis on the “everyday.” This is evident in every note Anderson plays on these two discs.

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