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 could be called the godfather (if not the father) of "Cool" Jazz. Charlie Parker? Well, after Charlie Parker, nothing was ever the same.
The disc begins with a bit of banter before Freeman, in his irreplaceable style, spins out eight minutes of the infrequently covered "Be My Love." Here, Freeman displays what makes his sound unique among the "giants" he proposes to honor. His tenor sound is deep, reedy and full of breath with a barely detectable vibrato. This tosses the saxophonist smack dab in the middle between Bean and Lady Day's President. It is here and on the solo saxophone closer, "Violets for Your Furs," that Von Freeman shows who he is?a tenor saxophonist of Beethovenian proportions, having seen all and played all, from Frankie Trumbauer and Greg Osby.
The centers of the recording are the blues pieces "Blue Pres" and "Disorder at the Border." Mr. Freeman takes on the ghosts of Pres and Bean directly, without ever losing himself in either artist's style. "Blue Pres" sounds like the best after hours blues anyone could hope for and has probably been in Freeman?s book from the beginning. Freeman?s own "Never Fear, Jazz is Here" and "This is Always" look forward and backward from Charlie Parker. The one ghost that is not mentioned is that of John Coltrane, who emanates from Freeman?' sax bell on "Chant Time" like "-pious incense from a censer old."
This recording is all that any mainstream jazz fan could hope for. Von Freeman is that quiet elder statesman whose fame fortunately manifest while it is not too late for the great saxophonist to enjoy it. A disc for the year-end list, for sure.
Personnel: Von Freeman: Tenor Saxophone; Jimmy Cobb: Drums; Richard Wyands: Piano; John Webber: Bass.