Fred Anderson (musician)

Fred Anderson (March 22, 1929 June 24, 2010) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist who was based in Chicago, Illinois.[1] Anderson's playing was rooted in the swing music and hard bop idioms, but he also incorporated innovations from free jazz, rendering him, as critics Ron Wynn and Joslyn Layne[2] have written, "a seminal figure among Chicago musicians in the '60s."

Fred Anderson
Fred Anderson in 2005; photo by Seth Tisue
Background information
Born(1929-03-22)March 22, 1929
Monroe, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedJune 24, 2010(2010-06-24) (aged 81)


Anderson was born Monroe, Louisiana. He grew up in the Southern United States and learned to play the saxophone by himself when he was a teenager.[3] Anderson moved his family to Evanston, Illinois in the 1940s. He studied music formally at the Roy Knapp Conservatory in Chicago, and had a private teacher for a short time.[3] Fred worked installing carpet for decades to sustain his music and his family, before opening up a succession of important Chicago nightclubs. Despite Anderson's prominence as an avant-garde musician, his guiding inspiration was Charlie Parker, portraits of whom are prominently displayed at Anderson's club, the Velvet Lounge.

He was a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). In the early 1960s Anderson formed his own group, playing his original compositions, with Vernon Thomas on drums, Bill Fletcher on bass, and his partner for many years, the Chicago jazz trumpeter Billy Brimfield.[3]

Anderson appeared on several notable avant garde albums in the 1960s, notably the seminal Delmark recordings of saxophonist Joseph Jarman, As If It Were the Seasons (1968), and Song For (1966), which includes Anderson's composition "Little Fox Run."

Around 1972 he put together the Fred Anderson Sextet, with trombonist George Lewis, reedist Douglas Ewart, bassist Felix Blackman, drummer Hamid Drake and Iqua Colson on vocals, playing in and around Chicago.[4]

Anderson toured Europe with Brimfield in 1977, recording as guests Accents with the Austrian trio Neighbours on MRC label. He back again in 1978 with his own group with Brimfield, George Lewis, and Hamid Drake and hooked up with bassist Brian Smith at the Moers Festival in Germany for his first record as leader, Another Place.[4]

Anderson opened his short-lived performance-workshop space Birdhouse around 1977, in honor of Charlie Parker, and closed the place in 1978.[3] In 1983, he took over ownership of the Velvet Lounge in Chicago, which quickly became a center for the city's jazz and experimental music scenes. The club expanded and relocated in the summer of 2006. Before that, his eclectic Beehive bar in west Chicago was a draw where musicians from around the world drank beer and played, mostly for each other.

Though he remained an active performer, Anderson recorded rarely for about a decade beginning in the mid-1980s. By the 1990s, however, he resumed a more active recording schedule, both as a solo artist, and in collaboration with younger performers, notably drummer Hamid Drake.

Anderson acted as mentor to young musicians who have gone on to prominent careers in music, either by featuring them in his groups or as performers at the Velvet Lounge. The list of musicians who he helped bring to public attention includes Hamid Drake, Harrison Bankhead, David Boykin, Nicole Mitchell, Justin Dillard, Aaron Getsug, Josh Abrams, Fred Jackson, Jr., George Lewis, Karl E. H. Seigfried, Isaiah Sharkey, and Isaiah Spencer. His son, Eugene Anderson, is a drummer.


As leader

Release year Title Label Notes
1978 Another Place Moers Quintet, with Billy Brimfield (trumpet), George Lewis (trombone), Brian Smith (bass), Hamid Drake (drums)
1979 Dark Day Message Quartet, with Billy Brimfield (trumpet), Steven Palmore (bass), Hamid Drake (drums)
1984 The Missing Link Nessa Quartet, with Larry Hayrod (bass), Hamid Drake (drums), Adam Rudolph (percussion). Recorded in 1979
1994 Vintage Duets Okka Disk Duo with Steve McCall (drums). Recorded in 1980
1995 Destiny Okka Disk Trio, with Marilyn Crispell (piano), Hamid Drake (drums)
1996 Birdhouse Okka Disk Quartet, with Jim Baker (piano), Harrison Bankhead (bass), Hamid Drake (drums)
1997 Fred Chicago Chamber Music Southport With Tatsu Aoki (bass), Afifi Phillard (drums), Bradley Parker-Sparrow (piano)
1997 Fred Anderson / DKV Trio Okka Disk With the DKV Trio: Hamid Drake (drums), Kent Kessler (bass), Ken Vandermark (reeds)
1999 Live at the Velvet Lounge Okka Disk Trio, with Peter Kowald (bass), Hamid Drake (percussion)
1999 Fred Anderson Quartet Volume One Asian Improv Quartet, with Bill Brimfield (trumpet), Chad Taylor (drums), Tatsu Aoki (bass)
2000 The Milwaukee Tapes Vol. 1 Atavistic Quartet, with Billy Brimfield (trumpet), Larry Hayrod (bass), Hamid Drake (drums). Recorded in 1980
2000 2 Days in April Eremite Quartet, with Hamid Drake (drums), Kidd Jordan (tenor sax), William Parker (bass)
2000 Fred Anderson Quartet Volume Two Asian Improv Quartet, with Hamid Drake (drums), Jeff Parker (guitar), Tatsu Aoki (bass)
2001 Duets 2001 Thrill Jockey Duo with Robert Barry (drums)
2001 On the Run, Live at the Velvet Lounge Delmark Trio, with Tatsu Aoki (bass), Hamid Drake (drums)
2003 Back at the Velvet Lounge Delmark With Maurice Brown (trumpet), Jeff Parker (guitar), Harrison Bankhead, Tatsu Aoki (bass), Chad Taylor (drums)
2004 Back Together Again Thrill Jockey Duo with Hamid Drake (drums)
2005 Blue Winter Eremite Trio with William Parker (bass), Hamid Drake (drums)
2006 Timeless, Live at the Velvet Lounge Delmark Trio with Harrison Bankhead (bass), Hamid Drake (drums)
2007 The Great Vision Concert Ayler Duo with Harrison Bankhead (bass)
2007 From the River to the Ocean Thrill Jockey With Hamid Drake (drums), Jeff Parker (guitar), Harrison Bankhead, Josh Abrams (bass)
2008 Live at the Velvet Lounge Volume III Asian Improv Quartet, with Francis Wong (tenor sax), Chad Taylor (drums), Tatsu Aoki (bass)
2009 A Night at the Velvet Lounge Made in Chicago 2007 Estrada Poznańska Trio, with Harrison Bankhead (bass), Dushun Mosley (drums)
2009 Staying in the Game Engine Trio, with Harrison Bankhead (bass), Tim Daisy (drums)
2009 21st Century Chase Delmark With Kidd Jordan (tenor sax), Jeff Parker (guitar), Harrison Bankhead (bass), Chad Taylor (drums)
2010 Black Horn Long Gone Southport Trio, with Malachi Favors (bass), Ajaramu (AJ Shelton) (drums). Recorded in 1993

As sideman

With Joseph Jarman

With Neighbours

  • Accents (MRC, 1978)

With Irene Schweizer and Hamid Drake


  1. Cook, Richard (2005). Richard Cook's Jazz Encyclopedia. London: Penguin Books. p. 14. ISBN 0-141-00646-3.
  2. Ron Wynn & Joslyn Layne, "Fred Anderson".
  3. Fred Anderson Biography Musician Guide
  4. Black Horn Long Gone Original Liner Notes
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