Home » Jazz Musicians » Von Freeman

Von Freeman

Von Freeman is an NEA Jazz Master Earl Lavon Freeman jazz tenor saxophonist, originally became known for his work with the Horace Henderson Group during the Late 1940s, and Sun Ra's band in the early '50s. During that period, he also played with his musical brothers, drummer Bruz (Eldrige) Freeman and guitarist George Freeman, (with pianists including Ahmad Jamal, Andrew Hill, and Muhal Richard Abrams). Chicago Tribune critic Howard Reich says, "...For technical brilliance, musical intellect, harmonic sophistication and improvisatory freedom, Von Freeman has few bebop-era peers."

The Chicago Reader's Monica Kendrick adds "He changes everything he touches, mostly for the better, with his swaggering tenor tenderness."

Along with his contemporaries Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin, and Clifford — the founder of the "Chicago School" of tenor players which adapted the work of Lester Young and Ben Webster, and influenced a number of players including Johnny Griffin & Clifford Jordan. To round out the musical family, the saxophonist's son Chico Freeman is also a well-known jazzman.

In the early 1960s, Freeman toured with Milt Trenier and, despite reasonably regular appearances in New York and Europe, the 75-year-old Freeman has remained to this day in Chicago, where you can see him almost weekly at clubs like Andy's, and has been the host of legendary jam sessions, like his Tuesday events at the New Apartment Lounge. You can catch him with the likes of John Young, Jodie Christian, Mike Raynor, Bettye Reynolds, Kurt Elling, and the rest of his musical family. His 75th birthday was celebrated with a headlining slot at the 1997 Chicago Jazz Festival. He joined one of the city's youngest tenor stars, Frank Catalano, in an afternoon set at the 1999 Fest.

His releases are still hard to find (especially on CD), but include Doin' It Right Now (1972, Atlantic), Have No Fear (1975, Nessa), Young and Foolish (1977), Walkin' Tuff! (1988, Southport), Never Let Me Go (1992, Steeplechase) Lester Leaps In (1992; Steeplechase), Serenade & Blues, and the recent tenor duet with Ed Petersen, Von and Ed (1999, Delmark), in addition to collaborations with April Aloisio, Steve Coleman, Chico and George Freeman, Yusef Lateef, Joanie Pallatto, Bradley Parker-Sparrow, and Louis Smith.


Album Review

George Freeman: Everybody Say Yeah!

Read "Everybody Say Yeah!" reviewed by Mark Corroto

It took a long time (much too long) for listeners to recognize the brilliance that was Chicago saxophonist Fred Anderson. The New York-centric jazz cognoscenti have often overlooked talent that comes from Chicago, and artists were often drawn to The Big Apple to seek the recognition they deserved. Beginning in the '90s, though, the focal point of creative music shifted to Chicago and veteran musicians such as Von Freeman, Fred Anderson, and Harrison Bankhead, plus (then) younger talents, Ken Vandermark, ...

Extended Analysis

Von Freeman: Vonski Speaks

Read "Von Freeman: Vonski Speaks" reviewed by Clifford Allen

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 ...

Album Review

Von Freeman & Friends: Young And Foolish

Read "Young And Foolish" reviewed by Chris May

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 ...


Von Freeman

Read "Von Freeman" reviewed by Terrell Kent Holmes

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 ...


A Fireside Chat With Von Freeman

Read "A Fireside Chat With Von Freeman" reviewed by AAJ Staff

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 ...

Album Review

Von Freeman: The Great Divide

Read "The Great Divide" reviewed by Mark Sabbatini

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 ...

Album Review

Von Freeman: The Great Divide

Read "The Great Divide" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

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 ...

Read more articles
Greg Osby



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Everybody Say Yeah!

Southport Records


Von Freeman: Vonski...

Unknown label


Young And Foolish

Challenge Records


The Great Divide

Premonition Records


Inside Chicago, Vol. 4

Premonition Records


The Improvisor

Premonition Records




Joe Lovano
Dexter Gordon
saxophone, tenor
Johnny Griffin
saxophone, tenor
Hank Mobley
saxophone, tenor
Jackie McLean
saxophone, alto
Donny McCaslin
saxophone, tenor
Archie Shepp
saxophone, soprano
Seamus Blake
saxophone, tenor
Ted Nash

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.