courtesy of the Velvet Lounge


Cecil Taylor's rebuttal to the notion that his music paralleled "free" was "there is nothing 'free' about any of this." Taylor went on to acknowledge his primary influences included Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald and gave insight into his demanding practice regimen. Obviously stating that there was indeed a method to his regarded madness. So it shouldn't be implausible that underground, tenor saxophone legend Fred Anderson's own sound grew out of his enthusiasm for the tenor of fellow Chicagoan Gene Ammons. Forged in soul and fortified by the unpretentious nature of the Windy City, Anderson (unedited and in his own words), largely undocumented, has silently become a tenor titan and his rare recordings command notice.

FRED JUNG: Let's start from the beginning.

FRED ANDERSON: What made me want to play music was years ago before I got to Chicago, I was born in Monroe, Louisiana and I was interested in music because nobody in my family was musically inclined. We had a piano in the living room and I would sit at the piano and mess around with it. A few years later, I was probably nine or ten, we moved to Chicago and I didn't have a piano, so just before the second World War, a friend of mine was in the Navy and asked me if I had ever heard Charlie Parker. I said, "Who is Charlie Parker?" I went home and my parents had some records of Charlie Parker playing with Jay McShann. This was in the Forties now, and after I heard him, then I decided I wanted to play saxophone.

FJ: Since its inception, you have been associated with the AACM, an organization faithful to the seemingly old school mantra of collective community by way of originality and independence.

FRED ANDERSON: Well, the overall importance of the AACM is really nothing new. It is just a modern version of what went on before, of a group of musicians getting together and deciding that they wanted to create some music, but they didn't have a name for it. I think that this has been going on for a long, long time, but they didn't have organization. The reason why I wanted to be involved was because it fitted what I wanted to do, to create music. That is the important thing about the AACM. The scene was not too good because before that, in Chicago, a lot of clubs and taverns used to have music. You could go into any neighborhood bar and lounge and they would have music. Some places had trios and other little larger groups. But then after Charlie Parker died, a lot of things folded up in Chicago. In the Sixties, when we formed the AACM, there was hardly a place to play, so we started giving concerts in little storefronts and little halls and things. I played the first concert for the AACM.

FJ: Guerilla marketing, an antithesis of the current community, which has embraced the music.

FRED ANDERSON: The people are playing in Chicago now because there are a lot of places like the Velvet Lounge. We try to promote the AACM music and all the creative musicians that want to create. A lot of the AACM generation now come in here and do what they want to do. A lot of them started here at the Velvet Lounge. Some of them have CDs out now. This was basically what I have been trying to do, the same thing that they did years ago when Charlie Parker and all of them would hang at Minton's. This is what I am trying to do with the young musicians now in Chicago. George Lewis started playing with me back in the early Seventies after he got out of college and you know where he is now. A lot of musicians are involved with this music and especially here at the Velvet, people come out to hear them.

FJ: As a mentor to Hamid Drake, it must be a source of pride to firsthand witness his astounding ascension.

FRED ANDERSON: Hamid and I developed this music together. We developed my style of music, whatever you want to call it. We did it together. It wasn't just me. It was him and I. Our relationship goes way, way back from the beginning.

FJ: How often do you actually play at the Velvet Lounge?

FRED ANDERSON: Not too often. It is basically a place for other people to play. I play here once in a while. I don't play here every night. It is sometimes once a month or once every two months. I haven't played here at the Velvet Lounge in possibly three months because I've been in and out of town, on the road. Me and Hamid have been doing gigs overseas together. We were just in Iowa. We have been traveling around, him and I and William Parker. I don't tour as much as he tours.

FJ: No one tours as much as Hamid tours.

FRED ANDERSON: Right, he plays with everybody. He plays all kinds of music. He is amazing. We are getting ready to do the Wire Festival in Chicago tomorrow. He is going to play here at the Velvet this weekend. We have been involved with each other forever. We always keep in contact with each other and play with each other when the time comes.

FJ: The initial volume of the Live at the Velvet Lounge series on the Delmark label featured Hamid and Tatsu Aoki. The second volume includes Aoki, but in place of the employed Hamid, is drummer Chad Taylor.

FRED ANDERSON: Right, Chad Taylor is the drummer and Chad did the volume one for Asian Improv, so this is my second album with Chad Taylor on drums.

FJ: What is the foundation of Fred Anderson's trademark sound?

FRED ANDERSON: It is within me and I developed that sound a long time ago by listening to a musician in Chicago year ago called Gene Ammons. This was the guy who inspired me as far as sound was concerned. I don't know nobody right now that has a sadder sound than Gene Ammons. I try to come as close as I possible can to it with a gut feeling and I try to play every note pretty clean. I got that from Charlie Parker, playing notes clean and playing pretty notes.

FJ: From personal experience, the bar business isn't an easy one.

FRED ANDERSON: I had the Birdhouse years ago and I've been here twenty-one years. I enjoy it, but what I enjoy most now is the young musicians and to watch them grow and watch them come into their own. I just want them to have a place to play where they can express themselves. Some of them are getting to make their own CDs. Dennie Winslett hosts the Sunday jam session and he is coming along. This is what I enjoy now, watching them. There is a lot of young musicians, but they don't have any places to express themselves freely.

Fred Jung is the Editor-In-Chief and is Wang Chunging tonight. Comments? Email Him