The altogether remarkable Indian summer of veteran Chicago saxophonist Fred Anderson shows no sign of fading away. In 2004, he celebrated three decades of friendship and collaboration with drummer Hamid Drake on Back Together Again, a joyful duo disc with earthy roots and ethereal spirit. From the River to the Ocean, the pair's second session for Thrill Jockey, finds them joined by three more Chicagoans: guitarist Jeff Parker and bassists Harrison Bankhead and Josh Abrams. The relationship between Anderson and Drake remains paramount, the drummer's bracing physicality providing the perfect impetus to power Anderson's gruff melodic flights. But the others provide more than window dressing. Parker's distinctive soloing style is relaxed and amiably off-center in the opening “Planet E,” while Bankhead and Abrams provide nimble counterpoint. (John McIntire's clear recording keeps every strand in focus.) Bankhead plays cello on the relaxed “Strut Time,” ably partnering the saxophonist's steamiest blowing. “For Brother Thompson” dedicated to the late Chicago trumpeter Malachi Thompson, is a stately elegy in Coltrane mode. The title track is colored by Parker's snake-charming lines, Abrams's ruddy guimbri and Drake's animated frame drum. Anderson and Abrams have the final word on “Sakti/Shiva,” a gently loping tenor/guimbri duo that closes the set on a note of quiet reverie.
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