Monday, April 23, 2007
Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake - From The River To The Ocean (Thrill Jockey, 2007) ****
Not many will be able to use their own well-known recipes again, and yet bring it in an interesting and refreshing way. The first two pieces on the album hail back to boppy free jazz in which especially Fred Anderson feels at ease like a fish in the water, and the last three are more inspired by Hamid Drake's leaning for spiritual jazz with middle-eastern chants and scales. They did the same thing on their previous album together, but also in their collaborations with William Parker, then succesful, now again. Jeff Parker on guitar, Josh Abrams on bass and guimbri, and Harrison Bankhead on bass, cello and piano, all three belonging to the Chicago jazz scene, bring the variation in the line-up, and also offer depth and additional color to the recipe. And by all standards this is free jazz of the highest order : accessible, full of variation, emotional, with musicians who inspire each other while playing. The first two songs are the "river songs", close to the source, deeply set in a blues mood. Both Anderson and Drake are originally from Louisiana and the River represents to all expectations the Mississippi and the Blues. The Ocean links the blues with the rest of the world and with spiritual infinity. That's at least my philosophico-musical interpretation of the title. The "ocean pieces" offer to me the the most beautiful part of this CD - they're slow, rhythmically strong, melodic, with Drake singing with his limited knowledge of Arabic, and with Bankhead figuring strongly on bass and cello. Anderson and Drake are both superb throughout the album. This is music with a light tread, yet with incredible depth. Great!