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Dark Day by Fred Anderson Quartet

Chicago’s tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson has been a mainstay of that city’s A.A.C.M. scene/movement since its inception, yet he’s not yet attained the relative fame of peers The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Muhal Richard Abrams. Again, go figure. But over the past couple of years there has been a slew of fine Anderson albums released, so maybe that’ll change. Dark Day is one such, one of the latest additions to Atavistic’s Unheard Music Series. This set reissues the live album of the same name (recorded in Chicago, previously available only on a small hard-to-find Austrian label) on one disc and a live gig from Verona, Italy on the other, both recorded in 1979. Both feature compelling discursive performances from Anderson, whose rich, blues-inflected Sonny Rollins-ish tenor sound is (to this jaded lad) unique and very distinctive among "free" sax players - namely, he doesn’t engage in over-the-top orgiastic squealing and he has a very focused, measured approach. There’s none of the squack-noodle-and-doodle-‘til-an-idea-comes-along jizz that has marred many a jazz album (whether in the free/avant idiom or not). Some of the tunes are dirges that recall those of Ornette Coleman, but the heavy mournful element is offset by hypnotic rhythmic drive and lean, persuasive swing. Another selling point is the crisp, parched trumpet sound of Billy Brimfield, which is a very personal synthesis of the influences of Lester Bowie and Freddie Hubbard. Dark Day is a must for Fred Anderson fans, and I’d also recommend it to those seeking an "earthier" sort of free/avant jazz.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Fred Anderson Quartet
  • CD Title: Dark Day
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Record Label: Atavistic
  • Musicians: Fred Anderson: tenor sax; Billy Brimfield: trumpet; Steven Palmore: bass; Hank (Hamid) Drake: drums, tablas.
  • Rating: Three Stars
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