Sunday, January 15, 2006

Fred Anderson and Robert Barry's Duets 2001

I suppose this isn't technically an "A" album so much as it is a "A & B" album, but I've always identified Duets more with Fred Anderson than Robert Barry.

This isn't to discount from Robert Barry's contribution to the album: the two Chicago jazz pioneers rightfully claim their places in jazz past and jazz current's elite. Both have amazing CV's - Barry backed both Miles Davis and was a member of Sun Ra's Arkestra, Anderson was an original member of the highly regarded and influential Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, which boasted all the key players of the avant-garde jazz scene (most notably the Art Ensemble of Chicago), and has run Chicago's landmark Velvet Lounge for decades. Duets is clearly the work of accomplished veterans, and the two sound symbiotically comfortable throughout the improvised pieces, with Barry's drumming meticulous and filling, and Anderson strong in tone, skittering and commanding at the same time.

But, for me, Anderson's the one up front and leading this album, and he's an immense pleasure to listen to. Anderson's a good segueway from standard jazz to Chicago's more avant-garde free jazz scene, methodically melodic but equally free in passages as Joseph Jarman ever was...the man is grounded, but with his head in the sky. While Barry stands up and matches with equal force (though I still prefer Chad Taylor), Anderson's a spotlight to me, and, even at his age, still sounds more assured and better than many newer and younger jazz musicians out there.

Duets is one of the better and more important Chicago jazz releases of the past decade, a commanding performance of the original gardeners in what has proven to be a fertile crop of modern jazz. It's not too often that I feel like listening to a jazz album in its entirety, but this one remains a pleasure to listen to, even five years after its release.

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