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George Freeman: The Good Life

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George Freeman: The Good Life
For guitarist George Freeman, The Good Life has also been a long life. He was a nimble-fingered ninety-five-year-old plectrist when this splendid album was recorded in May and June 2022, which makes it all the more grievous to know it would be organ maestro Joey DeFrancesco's last recording date; he died of a heart attack some three months later at the relatively young age of fifty-one.

Freeman leads two trios here, the first with DeFrancesco on organ and Lewis Nash on drums (tracks 1-3), the second with Christian McBride on bass and Carl Allen on drums. Freeman plays a smooth and mellow guitar, using well-shaped single-note runs to underline his candid and always engaging point of view. DeFrancesco, meanwhile, is his usual incredibly animated and fleet-fingered self, lending ardor and intensity to what is already an admirable session. Nash is a remarkably astute and steady timekeeper, as is Allen. When McBride takes over for DeFrancesco, on the fourth track, there is a perceptible difference in modulation but none in musicianship. The beat simply goes on.

Freeman, DeFrancesco & Nash open with a soft and soulful reading of the standard "If I Had You," maintain that posture on the shuffling blues "Mr. D," and close with the album's lone flag-waver, "Up and Down," on which Nash and DeFrancesco brandish their superior chops while Freeman keeps pace in his more laid-back manner. "Lowe Groovin,'" which introduces the second trio, is relaxed and meditative, unlike the buoyant "1, 2, 3, 4," which follows. "Sister Tankersley" is another pensive anthem, as is "The Good Life," which closes the session. Allen is unassuming yet steady as a rock, while McBride's deep-toned bass is outstanding whether soloing or comping.

Although this album could have benefited from more up-tempo moments, that is a small complaint, as everything on offer is exemplary. So, four stars for all-around excellence, plus an unreserved recommendation.

Track Listing

If I Had You; Mr. D; Up and Down; Lowe Groovin’; 1, 2, 3, 4; Sister Tankersley; The Good Life.

Personnel

Album information

Title: The Good Life | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: HighNote Records


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