CHAT WITH FRED ANDERSON
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
JUNG: Let's start from the beginning.
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
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.
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.
Guerilla marketing, an antithesis of the current community, which has
embraced the music.
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
As a mentor to Hamid Drake, it must be a source of pride to firsthand
witness his astounding ascension.
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
How often do you actually play at the Velvet Lounge?
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.
No one tours as much as Hamid tours.
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.
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.
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.
What is the foundation of Fred Anderson's trademark sound?
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.
From personal experience, the bar business isn't an easy one.
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
Fred Jung is the Editor-In-Chief and is Wang Chunging tonight. Comments?