Tenor player Fred Anderson may have been an underknown saxophonist but there is no denying his amazing, flowing playing and his commitment to nurturing the local scene in Chicago. In fact, it was desire to stay home and run the Velvet Lounge that kept him from a larger international profile.
Born in Louisiana, he came to Chicago in the '40s and worked doing carpet installation before opening nightclubs. In the '60's he was a founding member of the AACM and played on a couple of fantastic Joseph Jarman albums. Indeed, those fine albums are where I first heard him, especially on his own composition "Little Fox Run", one of the highlights.
In the '70s he had a band with master percussionist Hamid Drake (who was like a son to him) and trombonist George Lewis. He did some touring in Europe and came back to Chicago to open his first venue in '77. He bought the Velvet Lounge in '83 and that place became a well-known entity in the worlds of free jazz, avant-garde and out rock music.
In the late '90s he started recording again for labels like Okka Disk, Eremite, Delmark, Thrill Jockey and others, and starting touring more often (often in settings with Drake and William Parker). He passed on in 2010 but his legacy in the city will always remain. In fact, Joshua Abrams, Hamid Drake, Ernest Dawkins, Nicole Mitchell, George Lewis and many others all owe a great debt to Fred and his encouragement.
Here's Fred at the Europa Jazz Fest in 2005, with Drake and bassist Jaribu Shahid:
An incredible disk from Unheard Music, this 1980 group of Fred's, recorded live in Milwaukee, finally saw the light of day in 2000. That's Drake on tablas:
Here's "Little Fox Run", from Joseph Jarman's classic 1967 LP Song For. This is the first time I ever heard Anderson play was on this fine album: