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Jazz Review

Saxophonist Anderson Hits All of the Emotional Notes

May 14, 1997|BILL KOHLHAASE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Seldom does freely improvised jazz strike such deep and resonant emotions as it did Monday night at the Alligator Lounge. Chicago-based saxophonist Fred Anderson, making his first Los Angeles appearance, teamed with drummer Hamid Drake, percussionist Adam Rudolph and trombonist George Lewis to make vital, exciting music that reverberated with meaning and intense beauty.

The 66-year-old Anderson is a founding member of Chicago's Assn. for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. While many of his free-thinking associates have gone on to international fame, Anderson has largely stayed at home, where he owns the Velvet Lounge, a sanctuary for the city's more ambitious musicians.

Drake, Rudolph and Lewis, now all based in Southern California, were once members of Anderson's Chicago band back in the early '70s, and that shared experience probably explains why this performance came together so seamlessly.

The opening number, lasting almost 45 minutes, moved against a frenzied tribal patter from the percussionists, then evolved into a saucy parade march and, finally, into a more devotional feel as Lewis responded with slippery, audible shadows of Anderson's play. The second piece, with Drake playing only a large, hand-held frame drum and Rudolph the jug-like Nigerian udu, took on mystical airs as the two horns chattered away in speech-like patterns.

Throughout, Anderson spurned the cries and wails so often associated with free jazz, instead constructing involved narratives from the middle range of his instrument without benefit of the usual melodic or rhythmic hooks. Lewis used an amazing virtuosity to contribute brisk, coiling lines and tonal effects, often in response to the percussive textures behind him.

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