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A Fireside Chat With Von Freeman

AAJ Staff By

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AAJ: KOCH reissued Doin' It Right Now.

VF: Yeah, that's right.

AAJ: You did a live record with your son, Chico at the Blue Note in New York (Half Note Records).

VF: Yeah, it is always a pleasure and thrill to work with my son. We made one or two other things for different labels. He was a very smart kid and he had moved onto college as a mathematician. He won a scholarship for it to Northwestern, here in Chicago, which is a big time school. I thought surely, although he was playing trumpet, I didn't think he was really serious. I thought maybe he would put it down. I used to play trumpet for years and he went down in the basement and found one of my old trumpets. The thing was all beat up and battered, but he actually got it in the band there at school and changed his curriculum around. It was mathematics and now he was playing the trumpet, but I had another surprise coming because after he had been in the band for about two months, which I was very surprised that he made that band. He was fourth trumpet, but still he made the band. The next thing I know, he came home with a big case and I asked him that that wasn't a saxophone and he said, "Oh, yeah, daddy. I think this is where I really belong." I just looked at him and the next thing I know, the band went to Brazil and they won honors and he won honors as the best soloist. He went onto New York and that is where he has been ever since. That was 1971. I just kind of tipped my hat to him and said, "Go ahead Chico."

AAJ: Do you get many age references being equated with your playing?

VF: Oh, sure, I run into it all the time. The only thing is, I have been really blessed and really, just really, really lucky that my health is as well as it is. A lot of young guys are stunned I blow like this and I say, "I think I blow harder." It also has to do with I think I play more instead of just blowing now, along with the knowledge of how to conserve your energy. It is much easier to play now than at one time. For one thing, I didn't know much about mouthpieces or reeds or horns or anything and as you get older, Fred, you learn a lot of things that makes the playing much, much easier. So I can blow pretty strong and long and loud and I can still dance if I want to and I can still move around. I think a lot of people come to see if I'm going to faint or something (laughing).

AAJ: Your latest sounds better than your first.

VF: (Laughing) Well, thank you very much, Fred.

AAJ: And in the end?

VF: Well, truthfully, that I tried to be a nice guy and I tried to help the younger guys and gals. I do it all the time, but it is by osmosis really because I don't claim to have taught anybody anything. I came up with great saxophone players and nobody ever told me anything. If you respect what they are doing, you do pick up things. A lot of kids come around me now and if I know the answer, I tell them. When they ask how they are going to sound like me, I tell them I could sound like them if I tried. I am just telling them the truth. It is a singular music, jazz music is. You must find yourself. That is the only way you are really playing jazz. You want to enlighten the world with the touch that you have.

AAJ: And Von Freeman has done his part.

VF: Oh, thank you. And tell your audience, I love them.


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