Free-jazz saxophonist Fred Anderson dies at 81
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One of the leading figures in the Chicago music scene was lost Thursday as Fred Anderson, saxophonist, club owner and tireless advocate for the city’s fertile jazz scene, died at 81. In a tender, illuminating obituary for the Chicago Tribune, critic Howard Reich reported that Anderson’s sons declined to get into specifics about the saxophonist’s death, but grave news of his “massive heart attack” on June 14 sent ripples of concern through the jazz community.
Owner of Chicago’s landmark Velvet Lounge and co-founder of Chicago’s intensely creative Assn. for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) collective, Anderson helped nurture the careers of many Chicago jazz heavyweights, including Ken Vandermark, Hamid Drake and Jeff Parker. Anderson remained a force onstage and on record late in life, including a remarkable 2007 album with Drake and Parker, “From the River to the Ocean” (recorded by Tortoise’s John McEntire and released on the Chicago indie label Thrill Jockey), and last year’s live recording from his 80th-birthday show at the Velvet Lounge, “21st Century Chase,” a fiery, inspiring free excursion that also featured Parker along with tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan, bassist Harrison Bankhead and drummer Chad Taylor.
As reported in a separate story by Reich, the future of the Velvet Lounge has an unfortunate question mark looming over it with the loss of Anderson, who often covered some of its operations out of his own pocket. Fortunately, what will endure is the music, and Anderson left us with plenty to appreciate. Sample the video above, the trailer from a 2006 live CD/DVD set, “Timeless,” for a taste.
-- Chris Barton
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