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EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Von Freeman: Vonski Speaks

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Von Freeman Vonski Speaks Nessa Records 2009

The “musician's musician" is a tiring phrase--assuming that only someone who actually plays an instrument can receive joy from listening to players such as tenor saxpohonists Dexter Gordon, Don Byas and Ike Quebec, trumpeter Dupree Bolton or drummer Walter Perkins. None of the aforementioned players are still with us, and all spent time either in Europe (where ostensibly they were more appreciated), or died in America with little to no recognition. But working in relative obscurity to an end that's neither bitter nor painful can ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Von Freeman & Friends: Young And Foolish

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Still one of the best kept secrets in jazz--when he's referred to at all in the standard histories, it's usually only in passing, as the father of reed player Chico Freeman--Chicago tenor saxophonist Von Freeman deserves, instead, to be celebrated as a national treasure.Freeman was, in his prime, a swing-to-hard bop stylist of extraordinary shamanistic power; a visceralist who preferred to play American songbook ballads, but cooked at fierce temperatures, drenched with the blues, and sprinkled with both the free-improv innovations of Chicago's AACM and the frantic, bar-walking aesthetic of the honking and screaming tenor school. There are ...

ARTIST PROFILES

Von Freeman

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Chicago-based tenor man Von Freeman is jazz' answer to baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson: talented, respected by his peers, but still inexplicably underrated. Freeman's youthful buoyancy belies his 83 years, a threshold he crossed last month. When offered belated birthday wishes, Freeman playfully requested “Listen, let's make it 39, revealing a subscription to the Jack Benny method of birthday counting. He didn't make his first recording as a leader until he was 49, has been a fixture on the Chicago jazz scene for his entire career, along with his brothers--George, a guitarist, and drummer Eldridge (nicknamed “Bruz )--and is ...

INTERVIEWS

A Fireside Chat With Von Freeman

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There are unsung heroes among us. In football, Emmitt got a lead-in from every major pre-game show, but it is a little known Priest Holmes (KC) and a practically unknown Deuce McAllister that are putting Marshall, Ricky, and Emmitt to shame. While Derek Jeter, Barry, and A Rod garnered much of the headlines, a little known shortstop (David Eckstein) from a small market team (Angels), in a practically unknown town (Anaheim), was one of the major league leaders in on base percentage. And until the aftermath of 9-11, giving a hand to firefighters and law enforcement was an afterthought. There ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Von Freeman: The Great Divide

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There's an inclination to treat an 81-year-old sax master with kid gloves when assessing a new recording, but Von Freeman needs no such assistance.

The Great Divide continues his late in life resurgence as he pays tribute to former co-players Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Charlie Parker. It may not be a landmark album, but there's no doubt Freeman is masterful player and Divide is a pleasure from start to finish.

Freeman, whose previous album The Improviser was a live performance with an appearance by young modernistic genius Jason Moran on piano, doesn't bring any ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Von Freeman: The Great Divide

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It is a little bit crazy to consider octogenarian tenor saxophonist Von Freeman paying tribute to anyone considering that he has outlived the vast majority of his peers. Still, Mr. Freeman chooses to step out and tip his hat to three horns that changed everything - Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, and Charlie Parker. Freeman reasons that this present disc is entitled The Great Divide to illustrate the disparate aspects of these three men joined together by jazz. Coleman Hawkins was all about muscular eloquence, virile, masculine expression. Lester Young was the equivalent of an operatic lyric tenor, who very easily ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Brad Goode & Von Freeman: Inside Chicago, Volume 4

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Steeplechase seems to have stepped up the pace on its anthology of concert recordings chosen from trumpeter Brad Goode’s exhaustive tape cache. This fourth volume comes just months after the release of the third. Listeners outside the Chicago loop are perhaps less likely to have heard of Goode, but his co-pilot in the front line should spur familiarity in the mind’s of most jazz fans. Vonski’s been at the game for well over a half century, though you wouldn’t know it given his criminally sparse discography. Fortunately the Danish label’s been doing its part to rectify the slight for years ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Brad Goode & Von Freeman: Inside Chicago, Volume 3

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The latest in an ongoing series from Steeplechase, this third volume of concert tapes culled from Brad Goode’s fruitful association with elder improviser Von Freeman moves the action from Freeman’s familiar stomping grounds at the Jazz Showcase to the more venerable environs of the Green Mill. Also added to the formula this time out is the limber trombone work of Paul McKee, strengthening the tonal palette of the group but also subtracting from the solo space of the leaders. The rhythm section is a completely different cast of characters as well. Fronted by the relaxed but supportive ivories of Perillo, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Von Freeman: The Improvisor

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Saxophonist Von Freeman wasn't bitten by the wanderlust--a disadvantage in a jazz career. You've got to tour, or at the very least move to New York or Los Angeles. Or so they say. But Freeman stayed in Chicago, and for the better part of the last thirty years has been holding court at The Apartment Lounge, working his artistry outside the bigger limelights, developing, over the course of time, virtuoso--if underappreciated--skills.Put Von's new CD, The Improvisor, on blind, ignore the distinguished-looking grey-haired gent holding the sax on the cover, set the track for, say Freeman's take on Cole ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Von Freeman & Frank Catalano: You Talkin' To Me?!

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Break out the party hats and cut the celebratory cake; another Von Freeman jam session is out of the can and ready for the grasping hands of Windy City jazz fans! Vonski is cat so good at what he does that even the most callous critical eye can’t help becoming weepy in admiration. The man has been staging weekly jam sessions for virtually any and all comers for years, providing not only a proving ground for young talent, but also an instant, on the spot, greenhouse for their fledgling chops to bloom in. At the tender age of 13 Frank ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Von Freeman & Ed Petersen: Von & Ed

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Down and dirty cutting contests are nothing new in Jazz and their allure seems to transcend any idiomatic boundaries in the music. There’s a long lineage to draw on from the spirited jousts of Lester Young and Herschel Evans in the early incarnations of Basie’s Orchestra to Long Tall Dex and Wardell Gray slugging it out on the seminal bop brawl “The Chase.” Even a glance at the specs on this session should reveal it for what it is- a blowing session built on the prodigious talents of two Chicago-based titans of the tenor saxophone. An examination of the fare ...



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