Heralded as one of the most important saxophonists of our time, musician, composer and producer Chico Freeman marked his return to the United States after more than a decade living and working in Europe with a new album and a new group in 2016.
In the early 2000s, with dozens of recordings as a leader, Freeman moved from New York to Europe to start a new chapter of chico2011exploration by focusing on his own self-improvement and self-reflection. His thirst to immerse himself in his music, his curiosity to explore working with different musicians and living in different cultures and challenging himself to be better than he was, all prepared Freeman for this new stateside chapter of his life.
“As much as I’ve travelled and on the road playing with such masters as McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Jack DeJohnette, Sam Rivers, Sun Ra, Dizzy Gillespie and so many jazz greats, as well as leading my own groups including founding “The Leaders” and the group “Roots,” an inner voice was telling me, you need to go to another level both musically and personally,“ Freeman explains. “You need to work with other musicians from different cultures and create new avenues of expression.
As part of the Freeman family legacy of Chicago; his father, legendary NEA Jazz Master saxophonist Von Freeman; his uncles, guitarist George Freeman; and drummer Bruz Freeman, Chico amassed a diverse résumé of performing R&B to blues, hard bop to avant-garde. His collegiate studies in Advanced Composition and Theory at Northwestern University led him to teach composition at the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) Music School, and while attaining his Masters in Composition and Theory at Governor State University, he studied composition with NEA Jazz Master Muhal Richard Abrams.
Although jazz was the first music Freeman was exposed to, many of his early professional gigs were at Chicago clubs with such blues artists as Memphis Slim, and Lucky Carmichael. Freeman went on to play with pop and R & B greats The Temptations, Michael Jackson, The Four Tops, Jackie Wilson, The Dells, The Isley Brothers, and The Eurythmics.
After arriving in New York, he immediately began working with Jeanne Lee, Mickey Bass, John Stubblefield, and Cecil McBee. Through apprenticeships in New York and abroad with such innovators as Elvin Jones, Don Pullen, Sam Rivers, Sun Ra, and Jack DeJohnette, Freeman developed his own group and rapidly rose to prominence with his energetic and exploratory style.