For Immediate Release
GEORGE FREEMAN – GEORGE THE BOMB!
SPECIAL GUEST – BILLY BRANCH
“You will always have jazz; jazz is not dead—as long as you have kids coming into this world who have rhythm and soul and a feeling.” – George Freeman (Chicago Jazz Magazine, 2015)
Guitarist George Freeman turns up the volume in his Chicago living room as he listens to "George The Bomb!" and he is smiling. He turns 92 on April 10, 2019. He remembers a time when Charlie Parker wouldn't go onstage without him. He is one of the few remaining living musicians who recorded with Bird ("An Evening In Chicago" Savoy, 1950). The music of George Freeman is not restricted to swing, blues, bop, rock or modern because George has been a living part of all of these eras.
On track #1, "George The Bomb!" harp master extraordinaire Billy Branch sends out a sound that explodes! His sly way of comping on the title track gets the groove rocking and rolling. The surprise here is when Freeman breaks into a full vocal scat! Is it jazz or is it blues? Who cares, it's hot! On track #3, "Where's The Cornbread?" George and Billy have a fun ride with their vocal conversation... "Hey Billy!" - "Yes, George..." To hear Billy Branch sing the blues standard "Help Me", track #5, while showcasing his authentic blues harp alongside Freeman's searing guitar is the breakout culmination of their collaboration.
John Devlin's accordion creates a lush canvas on track #2, "Gorgeous George" -a masterful composition from Freeman. Could this be a new "Steppers" song, with it's smooth groove? Drummer Luiz Ewerling adds the right spice with his percussion.
The entire recording was a joyful collaboration! Pianist Bradley Parker-Sparrow opens track #4, "Tonto" with a moody swing groove, while Freeman delivers a strong and happy scat! Track #9, "Home Grown Tomatoes" features a vocal bluesy duet between Freeman and vocalist Joanie Pallatto. Freeman penned track #11, "Al Carter-Bey" for his lifelong friend and radio impressario.
George Freeman is a living legend and has toured and/or recorded with musical legends from Charlie Parker to Lester Young, Johnny Griffin, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Gene Ammons, to Dinah Washington, along with his brothers Von Freeman and Bruz Freeman and his nephew Chico Freeman.
"George The Bomb!" features: George Freeman, electric guitar and vocals; Billy Branch, harmonica and vocals; John Devlin, 6-string electric bass, accordion and vocals; Luiz Ewerling, drums and percussion; Joanie Pallatto, vocals and Bradley Parker-Sparrow, piano.
All of the tracks are original songs by George Freeman, © 2019 Porkpie Music BMI (with the exception of "Help Me" by Ralph Bass, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and Willie Dixon (BMI) and "The Music Goes 'Round and Around" by Edward Farley / Michael Riley / Red Hodgson (ASCAP).
Produced by Joanie Pallatto & Bradley Parker-Sparrow.
Recorded August - December 2018 at Sparrow Sound Design Recording Studio, Chicago, IL
Promotions: Blujazz Records, Lampkin Music Group, Orman Music Media Group
STREET DATE: APRIL 2, 2019 – SOUTHPORT RECORDS – A NEW RELEASE: S-SSD 0148
1. George The Bomb! (5:47) 7. The Music Goes 'Round and Around (3:42)
2. Gorgeous George (7:20) 8. Cha Cha Blue (3:43)
3. Where's The Cornbread? (7:22) 9. Home Grown Tomatoes (4:20)
4. Tonto (5:57) 10. Intimate (5:05)
5. Help Me (7:29) 11. Al Carter-Bey (3:14)
6. Uncle Funky (5:20)
"The Last Circus in Town"
Single Download on CD Baby
Coming Soon on iTunes!!!
Youtube Video Teaser
Piano: Bradley Parker-Sparrow
Voice: Joanie Pallatto
Music and Lyrics: B.P. Sparrow & Joanie Pallatto
A SOUTHPORT FILM
© 2017 Southport Records
Cover Art Design: Al Brandtner
Family Photos: Charlotte Pallatto (The Kipfer Family)
Do you remember, as a child... your eyes would open wide! The Circus is coming to Town! Joanie & Sparrow dedicate "The Last Circus in Town" to their memories of the greatest show on earth from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The circus ends it's tour on May 21st, 2017. We salute the circus, and are sorry to see them go! Goodbye...
All In the Family’s got LEGS!
George Freeman - Chico Freeman "All In The Family"
Southport Records 2015 (Southport 0143)
[Bar Code: 700797014326]
Southport Records would like to present an overview of George Freeman and Chico Freeman “All In The Family” – a year-plus of radio play and reviews! We are so pleased with the warm reception from the music industry, near and far! Thank you all, with great appreciation!
– Joanie Pallatto & Bradley Parker-Sparrow, partners and producers, Southport Records
***Southport Records would like to recognize writer Neil Tesser for his the fine contribution to the CD with his informative liner notes!!! Thanks, Neilski!
***A special shout out to Al Brandtner, Brandtner Design Ltd. for his vibrant treatment of the CD package for “All In the Family” www.brandtnerdesign.com
***Magic in the studio happened with recording engineer Todd A. Carter at the controls – thanks Todd!
***Very Special Thanks to The Jazz Institute of Chicago – especially executive director Lauren Deutsch and board member Steve Saltzman for all their help in presenting Chico Freeman’s “The Chicago Project” featuring George Freeman 9/4/15 at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for the Chicago Jazz Festival 2015!
***Jazz History was made from 9/17/15 – 9/20/15 at Joe & Wayne Segal’s Jazz Showcase with the Southport Records CD Release Celebration of George Freeman & Chico Freeman’s “All In The Family.” Our most profound thanks to Joe, Wayne, the staff, and all the musicians (Kirk Brown, Harrison Bankhead, Ernie Adams, Mike Allemana, and special guest Reto Weber.)
Southport sends out a huge THANK YOU to all the writers and publications for their whirlwind of print and online reviews. To be embraced by so many in the music industry is a beautiful thing! Read on, all reviews are included here, with links.
All of the musicians worked so diligently to make this recording happen, and their excellent musicianship allowed “All In The Family” to truly become a high point for us at Southport Records. Many thanks to Kirk Brown, Harrison Bankhead, Hamid Drake, Mike Allemana, Joe Jenkins and Reto Weber!
We have worked over the years on numerous recordings with Von Freeman and George Freeman. It has been our privilege to count them among our closest friends. Von’s son Mark Freeman has been there for his father and uncle George for most every gig and session! With “All In The Family” we have made a new, life-long friend in Chico Freeman.
Our dear friend Kate Smith worked tirelessly at Kate Smith Promotions to give the CD tons of worldwide airplay, peaking at high numbers on all the charts. Our deepest appreciation goes out to Kate and her team!
NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL RADIO CAMPAIGN
KATE SMITH PROMOTIONS
TOP 50 JAZZ CHART – 13 weeks on the chart / peak #10
COLLEGE MUSIC JOURNAL
TOP 50 JAZZ CHART – 10 weeks on the chart / peak #4
ROOTS AND MUSIC REPORT
TOP 50 JAZZ CHART – peak #9
CHICAGO RADIO AND BEYOND:
Too numerous to list, from Kate Smith Promotions worldwide airplay, to our Chicago DJs, Southport would like to extend a special thanks to the following radio hosts for their continued support, along with interviews and on-air segments that helped to promote “All In The Family” to great effect!
KMUW FM 89.1
Night Train: Best of 2015
by Chris Heim • DEC 24, 2015
9. George Freeman/Chico Freeman - All in the Family (Southport)
Night Train was part of the NPR Jazz Critics Poll for 2015, and Chris Heim names "All In The Family" #9 for the year 2015!!!!! Great, Chris!
Real Jazz with Mark Ruffin
A big hello and thank you to Mark Ruffin, our jazz friend and PD of Sirius XM for placing George Freeman & Chico Freeman’s “All In The Family”in heavy rotation! Much appreciated!
WBEZ 91.5 FM
What a great ride on WBEZ! Special shout out to Claude Cunningham for spearheading and coordinating the live performance of George Freeman and Chico Freeman with band members Kirk Brown, Harrison Bankhead and Ernie Adams on the Morning Shift! Many thanks to producer Jason Marck and host Tony Sarabia!
Morning Shift – September 16, 2015
with Tony Sarabia
~ Freeman family reunites for album and series of Chicago shows ~
"Plus, Chicago jazz legend George Freeman is in our Jim and Kay Mabie Performance Studio along with his saxophone playing nephew Chico Freeman. They’ve got a new album."
Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Sonny Stitt...it’s a rare thing today to come across someone who played with those stalwarts of jazz — but we were joined by such a person in the Jim and Kay Mabie Performance Studio.
At 88 years old, Chicago jazzman George Freeman is still laying down some great licks on his guitar. He’s got a new release that includes another member of the Freeman family — his nephew Chico, son of the late tenor-great Von Freeman. Chico himself has an equally impressive list of names he’s collaborated with: Dizzy, McCoy Tyner and Charles Mingus to name a few.
Their record is called All In the Family and they’re here to play some tunes before they play shows all weekend at the Jazz Showcase, including a CD release show tomorrow.
WBEZ 91.5 FM
Who was Walter H. Dyett?
by Yolando Perdomo
During the recording sessions for “All In The Family”, we got a call from WBEZ reporter Yolanda Perdomo with a request to interview George Freeman on his years with Captain Walter Dyett. Listen to George, as he spoke of many things…
WDCB 90.9 FM College of DuPage:
Thanks to all the radio hosts for their continued airplay and ongoing support!
Music Director Paul Abella, John H. Burnett, Jeanne Franks, Jay Greene, Besflores Nievera, Bruce Oscar, John Radio Russell “Midwest Ballroom”, Marshall Vente “Jazz Tropicale”and Barry Winograd.
WDCB Music Lounge – New Releases Spotlight
posted: July 13th, 2015
by Paul Abella
“All in all, an excellent disc that I think you’re going to love.” – Paul Abella, WDCB 90.9fm
Let’s start in Chicago with the latest from Chico and George Freeman, called All in the Family. This is an excellent disc featuring the handiwork of Chico Freeman (Von’s son) on tenor and George Freeman on guitar with an all-star cast backing them up, including Mike Allemana, Harrison Bankhead and Hamid Drake. They mix it up throughout, ranging from gorgeous balladry ("Angel Eyes") to mellow grooves ("Dark Blue") to some fantastic swinging ("A Distinction Without a Difference"). All in all, an excellent disc that I think you’re going to love.
WDCB 90.9 FM
September 2015 Broadcast of Chico Freeman Interview with Station Manager Dan Bindert!!! (Your interview of Chico during the recording sessions brought out so much insight and creativity – thanks, Dan!)
WDCB 90.9 FM
September 2015 Broadcast of George Freeman Interview with Host Barry Winograd!!! (George was so delighted that you spent so much time and took such care in presenting his life in music! Thanks, Barry)
WDCB 90.9 FM
Thanks always to Marketing Director Ken Scott for his help in hosting the WDCB Sponsored Event:
George Freeman + Chico Freeman
Southport Records CD Release "All In The Family"
Thu, Sep 17 - opens Thu, Sep 17 and continues through Sun, Sep 20
Jazz Showcase - Chicago
WHPK 88.5 FM
Al Carter-Bey (12 – 2 Sundays)
Sunday, June 21
Jazz Rapp with the Impressario Al Carter-Bey
Jazz Host Al Carter-Bey got the scoop on George Freeman with a phone interview, followed by airplay of three of George’s compositions from “All In The Family” – "Chico", "Marco" and "My Scenery." Great!
WHPK 88.5 FM
Lofton A. Emenari III, (“What Is This Thing Called Jazz” 2 – 4 Sundays)
"Perhaps one of the best new releases of the year documenting the rare pairing of Chicago's jazz royalty."
WHPK 90.9 FM – Thanks for all the airplay from so many DJs and hosts, including Michelle Drayton, “Morning Jazz”, Brenda Phillips & Linda Hall “Journey Into Jazz”, John Litweiler “Zounds!” and Jazz Format Chief Richton Guy Thomas!
WGN AM 720
Through the years, the quintessential on-air presence of Rick Kogan has given voice to countless hours of radio gems, interviews and the best in music of all genres. Thanks for being our friend, Rick!
WNUR 89.3 FM – Chicago’s Sound Experiment
Thanks for the airplay, from our Jazz DJ Warriors – Mike Corsa, Alain Drout, Dave Freeman, Art Lange & Peter Kostakis (Writer's Bloc), and Erik Ricks.
WRRG 88.9 FM – Thanks for the continued support, Tom Macek, “The Jazz Arena”!
ALPHABETICAL LIST OF PRESS RECEIVED IN 2015-2016:
All About Jazz
by Dan Bilawsky
“Together, the Freemans managed to embody the entire sound of Chicago, creating music that runs the gamut from bar-walking blues to bop, far-out to funky, and tradition-minded to Afro-Futuristic.” – Dan Bilawsky, All About Jazz
~ George Freeman/Chico Freeman: All In The Family ~
There are few things more quintessentially "Chicago" in jazz than the Freeman family. Tenor titan Von Freeman ruled the roost in The Windy City decade after decade until his death in 2012; his brother, George Freeman, played with everybody from saxophonist Charlie Parker to organist Shirley Scott; his other brother, the late Eldridge "Bruz" Freeman, was part of the house band at the Pershing and the drummer in Hampton Hawes' quartet with Jim Hall; and Von's son, saxophonist Chico Freeman, has ties to the AACM, has worked with eternal seekers like saxophonist Arthur Blythe and drummer Jack DeJohnette, and has recorded extensively under his own name over the past four decades. Together, the Freemans managed to embody the entire sound of Chicago, creating music that runs the gamut from bar-walking blues to bop, far-out to funky, and tradition-minded to Afro-Futuristic. Here, the last two standing—George and Chico—join forces for the first time on record to pay tribute to their family and all that is Chicago.
Fully-improvised vignettes, full band numbers, and duo encounters quickly come and go on this twenty-two track album. There's a beautiful ballad to behold ("My Scenery"), a Latin lovely to admire ("Latina Bonita"), a number that continually morphs into new shapes and feels ("Inner Orchestrations"), some straight-up post-bop swing ("Chico"), a haunting take on a classic ("Angel Eyes"), a sunny groove tune ("Marko"), and more. Miniatures—bite-sized percussion morsels, a series of interludes, the album-ending remarks recorded live at the Englewood Jazz Festival—account for about half of the tracks, but they don't hamper the flow of the album. Quite the opposite, in fact, as they tend to keep ears guessing and keep things interesting.
Given the nature of the project, it should come as no shock that the personnel list would contain the names of more notable Chicagoans capable of giving a three-hundred-and-sixty degree view of the city's musical landscape: inside-outside players like drummer Hamid Drake and bassist Harrison Bankhead, longtime Von Freeman guitarist Mike Allemana, and Malachi Thompson-connected pianist Kirk Brown, along with Swiss-born percussionist Reto Weber, all ably assist in spreading the wide-ranging gospel of that fair city and saluting the Freeman family legacy.
Track Listing: Dark Blue; Interlude V-2; Latina BOnita; Interlude V-6; My Scenery; Interlude V-9; Five Days In May; Vonski; Interlude; V-8; Inner Orchestrations; Percussion Song Two; Chico; Interlude V-5; What's In Between; Essence Of Silence; Interlude V-4; A Distinction Without A Difference; Interlude V-10; Angel Eyes; Percussion Song One; Marko; Chico & George Introductions.
Personnel: George Freeman: guitar, vocals (21); Chico Freeman: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Kirk Brown: piano, keyboard; Harrison Bankhead: acoustic bass, vocals; Hamid Drake: drums, percussion; Reto Weber: hang, percussion; Mike Allemana: guitar; Joe Jenkins: drums; Joanie Pallatto: vocals (21).
Year Released: 2015
Record Label: Southport Records
Jan. Feb. March 2016 Vol. 42 No. 1 (417)
New Issues - page 207
by Don Lerman
“The interesting program…is laid out as a concert containing compositions from Chico and George, linked together by short "interludes" or "percussion songs." – Don Lerman, Cadence Magazine
1) GEORGE FREEMAN / CHICO FREEMAN
ALL IN THE FAMILY
SOUTHPORT S-SSD 0143
Tenor saxophonist Chico Freeman and guitarist George Freeman, representing two generations of the Freeman family, got together with several of Chicago's finest jazz musicians for this recent recording. Inspiration for this effort was drawn from the preeminent Chicago tenor player Von Freeman, the father of Chico and brother of George, who passed away in 2012. The interesting program on (1) is laid out as a concert containing compositions from Chico and George, linked together by short "interludes" or "percussion songs." Throughout the longer pieces (seven composed or co-composed by Chico and four composed by George), the differences between Chico and George in musical style in part reflecting their different eras may be heard, such as Chico's playing on his and Caryl Baker's Monk-like composition "What's In Between," as compared with George's simpler and more basic style on "Dark Blue." On many other selections, however, the natural musical (and perhaps, family) communication between Chico and George seems to bring some convergence in their playing, for example
on the two duet tunes, "Vonski" and "Essence of Silence," and on George's outstanding composition "My Scenery." Kirk Brown on piano, Harrison Bankhead on bass, and Hamid Drake on drums, the primary rhythm section for the session, perform well and with flexibility in backing the Freemans and the varying styles of their compositions.
- Don Lerman
George Freeman, g; Chico Freeman, ts, ss, voc; Kirk Brown, p; Harrison Bankhead, b, voc; Hamid Drake, d, perc; Reto Weber, hang, perc (7, 11, 20); Mike Allemana, g (7, 14); Joe Jenkins, d (21); Joannie Pallatto, voc (21). September 2014-January 2015, Chicago, IL.
OCT NOV DEC 2015, p. 95
by Robert D. Rusch
Papatamus – A collection from Robert Rusch of sometimes disparate material though generally relating to music recordings or performance.
“All this might suggest a fragmented recording, but to the contrary, the programing and engineering offers up a seamless listening experience with good variety.” – Robert D. Rusch, Cadence Magazine
CHICO FREEMAN [ts], one of the busiest jazzman of the 80s and 90s and participant on many fine record dates, moved to Switzerland and for most of this century his profile has had a diminished presence in North America.
In addition to the above mentioned recording comes ALL IN THE FAMILY [Southport 143], is a recording headed by GEORGE FREEMAN [gtr] and CHICO FREEMAN [ts/ss] recorded between 9/14 and 1/15, in Chicago. This is a rather warm recording, Chico Freeman referred to it as a “homecoming [and] the chance to play with people who understood the unspoken things”. Some of those people I presume are Kirk Brown [kbds], Harrison Bankhead [b], Hamid Drake [perc], Reto Weber [perc], Mike Allemana [gtr] and Joe Jenkins [drm]. Of the 22 tunes here, 21 are originals. “Angel Eyes” is the one standard. Some of the tracks are brief improvs ranging from 00:28 to 1:43 and utilizing various members of the ensemble [solo to quartet] similarly different grouping from solo to sextet are utilized on the rest of the compositions. All this might suggest a fragmented recording, but to the contrary, the programing and engineering offers up a seamless listening experience with good variety. The CD [79:00] ends with a stage introduction from a jazz festival, it is an incongruent addition on an otherwise fine release, and can easily be programed out. A 16page booklet gives the discographical breakdown, photos and various liner notes/comments.
Chicago Jazz Magazine
by Hrayr Attarian
"All In The Family is a brilliant and cohesive work with elegant charm and thrilling virtuosity. It is a unique and superlative addition to both co-leaders’ discography."
- Hrayr Attarian, Chicago Jazz Magazine
George Freeman and Chico Freeman - All in the Family
Chicago guitarist George Freeman is one of those underappreciated masters who alas, are way too common in the annals of jazz. Eighty-eight years old, his creative zeal remains unhampered, as his collaboration with his world-famous nephew, saxophonist Chico Freeman, clearly demonstrates. All In The Family is a stimulating and delightful album, a collection of originals by George and Chico, a single standard and several brief improvisations interspersed among the longer tracks.
The latter enhance the intimate and spontaneous nature of the session by shedding light on the camaraderie among the band members, as well as offering a glimpse at the raw inventive process. “Interlude V-9,” for instance, is a brief and intense exchange between Chico Freeman’s raw tenor and drummer Hamid Drake’s thudding congas, while “Interlude V-8” is a short and riotous group play. Sandwiched between the two are the lilting and contemplative “Five Days in May” and the boppish “Vonski.” The first one features Chico Freeman’s longing soprano sax wail and percussionist Reto Weber’s darkly resonant hang. The playful dialogue between Freeman and guitarist Mike Allemana maintains the piece’s subtle poetry.
The second, penned by George Freeman for his late brother, the saxophonist Von Freeman (Chico’s father), is a tenor and guitar duet that channels his spirit with its free flowing angularity and intense melodicism. George Freeman’s intriguing solo weaves melancholic threads into its vibrant and lively phrases. The older Freeman also composed the effervescent “Chico” that highlights his crisp, thick chords and bassist Harrison Bankhead’s lyrical con arco lines. Pianist Kirk Brown takes his turn in the spotlight with an exuberant and intricately constructed extemporization. This engaging and exciting record closes with the vivacious “Marko.”
Drummer Joe Jenkins propels this funk-tinged tune as producer and vocalist Joanie Pallatto joins Bankhead and George Freeman in hypnotic and ebullient wordless chanting. All In The Family is a brilliant and cohesive work with elegant charm and thrilling virtuosity. It is a unique and superlative addition to both co-leaders’ discography.
- Hrayr Attarian
George Freeman – Guitar
Chico Freeman – Soprano and tenor saxophones
Kirk Brown – Piano
Harrison Bankhead – Bass
Hamid Drake – Drums and percussion
Reto Weber – Percussion
Joe Jenkins – Drums
Joanie Pallatto – Voice
Chicago Jazz Magazine
Date Posted: November 08 2015
Written By: chicago jazz magazine
Photo by Christine Jeffers
“You will always have jazz; jazz is not dead—as long as you have kids coming into this world who have rhythm and soul and a feeling.” – George Freeman
***“In His Own Words” – an interview with George Freeman. Read the entire interview at the bottom of the page (or click on the link.) Go, George!
September 18, 2015
by Howard Reich
“To see and hear these two on stage, backed by many of the musicians on the recording, was to realize anew how central the Freeman dynasty remains to the meaning of Chicago jazz.” – Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune
~ George and Chico Freeman together again ~
There's a slice of history on the stage of the Jazz Showcase this week, as one of Chicago's great jazz families reminds us of how much it has given to this city.
If you've been listening to the music here for the past half century or more, you're probably familiar with the name of Von Freeman, the majestic tenor saxophonist who inspired generations of musicians with the harmonic ingenuity and technical brilliance of his work. Freeman died in 2012, at age 88, but his legacy resonates profoundly in jazz, not least through the work of the remarkable musicians who opened Thursday night at the Showcase.
The master's son, Chico Freeman, stands as a powerhouse saxophonist in his own right, his approach distinct from his father's but, in its own way, crystallizing a great deal of what it means to be a tenor man born of the Chicago tradition. His is a big, brawny, bluesy, penetrating sound – less idiosyncratic than his father's but conceived on a similarly large scale.
Chico Freeman left Chicago in the 1970s for New York and points beyond, but he sounded exultant at being back home to celebrate the release of the album "All in the Family," featuring him with his uncle, 88-year-old guitarist George Freeman. To see and hear these two on stage, backed by many of the musicians on the recording, was to realize anew how central the Freeman dynasty remains to the meaning of Chicago jazz. And though many listeners caught their performance at the Chicago Jazz Festival earlier this month, encountering them in an intimate room magnified the impact of everything they did.
For starters, there was Chico Freeman's work on tenor, his solos expansive and cogent from the outset in his tune "Elvin." Named, of course, for singular drummer Elvin Jones, the piece reflected the huge canvas on which Jones usually worked. Everything about Freeman's performance here, in other words, was larger than life, from the immense sound and piercing tone of his opening solos to the roars, rasps and growls that punctuated his final statements. With Chicago drummer Ernie Adams and Swiss percussionist Reto Weber producing a storm of rhythm, you nearly could conjure the sound of Freeman's work in Jones' company.
No one has been more important in reviving George Freeman's career in recent years than Chicago guitarist Mike Allemana, so it was thoroughly fitting that he appeared on this stage (as he does on the recording). He has been a foil, a protégé and a supporter of the elder guitarist, playing all three roles, and then some, when the octogenarian musician took the stage midway during the first set.
Though amplification problems meant that guitarist Freeman's opening solos on his poignant ballad "My Scenery" were mostly lost to the ether, he soon found his footing, especially in the set's closing piece. Stanley Turrentine's "Soft Pedal Blues." As often is the case with musicians of Freeman's exalted vintage, the guitarist chose his notes carefully, saying a great deal by distilling his art to its essence. But the poetry of Freeman's lines, the boldness of his bursts of dissonance, the puckishness of his spirit and the sheer breadth and duration of his solo – which pre-empted his nephew's attempt to retake the spotlight – reaffirmed the man's enduring ability to make a statement.
With pianist Kirk Brown and bassist Harrison Bankhead enriching the sound of the band, the Freemans soared.
"My intention is to take this project around the world," Chico Freeman told the crowd.
The world will be a better place for it.
When: 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4, 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday
Where: Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Court
Tickets: $20-$35; 312-360-0234 or www.jazzshowcase.com
September 24, 2015
by Howard Reich
“…an immensely attractive and evocatively titled album, "All in the Family" (Southport Records).” – Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune
~ George and Chico Freeman: A beautiful reunion in jazz ~
One of the most joyful sets at the recent Chicago Jazz Festival featured the work of two men linked by music and blood.
Even if you didn't know that Chicago guitarist George Freeman is the uncle of former Chicago saxophonist Chico Freeman, you couldn't miss the profoundly empathetic connection between them. They answered each other's phrases; they spoke the same language; they filled in each other's thoughts, the saxophonist's often ornate playing counterbalanced by the guitarist's succinct ideas.
Because Chico Freeman left Chicago for New York and points beyond in the mid-1970s, he has performed with his uncle only sporadically during the past few decades, and usually in the company of Chico's father, the legendary Chicago saxophonist Von Freeman (George's brother, who died in 2012 at age 88).
But last September at the Englewood Jazz Festival, Chico and George Freeman reconnected, the two much admired musicians playing robustly together before a cheering audience, then going into the studio two days later to record an immensely attractive and evocatively titled album, "All in the Family" (Southport Records).
The Freemans will celebrate the release of that recording this weekend at the Jazz Showcase, the engagement giving them an opportunity to dig deeper into their shared musical identity than at any time since the '70s. Each musician relishes the opportunity.
For Chico Freeman, the reunion recalls the first time he worked with his uncle, several decades ago. The saxophonist had joined the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), a collective of experimenters, and he wondered whether his uncle – a master of earlier swing and bebop idioms – could fit in with the new sound.
"I was in a little more experimental direction, (so) I wasn't sure how that would work out," recalls Chico Freeman of their debut at Transitions East, a long-gone club on the South Side.
"What happened was it was fantastic. My uncle blew my mind. I was so surprised that he could just play anything. He's very melodic. But even in more experimental arenas, he was able to do that and maintain melody, but at the same time he was so totally inside the music and the spirit.
"I learned what it means to be a complete musician and to be able to play all kinds of music. So it was a great lesson for me."
Before long, though, Chico Freeman was out of Chicago and playing select dates in New York and across Europe with his father, Von. Their collaboration was famously documented on the album "Fathers and Sons" (1982) featuring the Freeman and Marsalis families.
Now, though, thanks to "All in the Family," we have a document of two Freemans communing one-on-one and in the company of such formidable Chicago players as pianist Kirk Brown, bassist Harrison Bankhead, percussionist Hamid Drake and guitarist Mike Allemana.
What does Chico Freeman hear in his uncle's playing today, nearly half a century after their first collaborations?
"I hear that really he doesn't feel he has anything to prove – he doesn't show off," says Chico Freeman.
"I mean, I've heard him earlier (in life) playing a lot of notes, playing fast, and he could run through (chord) changes a lot. Now it's like pure – just pure expression of himself. It's nothing to prove. He's not trying to show how fast he plays. There's no wasted notes in what he plays.
"The spaces he leaves are equally as important as the notes he plays. The only other person I know who plays like that – not like that, but in his own way – was Miles Davis. But George's sound is unique and original. And he touches people. He touches me."
For George Freeman, the chance to perform and record with his nephew has been gratifying, he says. He hears echoes of the Freeman family legacy in Chico's work.
"It's like playing with his father," says George Freeman, 88. "They're different, no doubt about that. But he has the feeling that his daddy had. His daddy had a certain kind of marvelous feeling. His daddy played so beautifully, it made you want to cry.
"He just had a feeling in his playing, a soul in his playing, which he taught me and my other brother," adds George Freeman, referring to drummer Eldridge "Bruz" Freeman, who died in 2006.
Chico Freeman, of course, grew up immersed in the Freeman family sound, hearing Von and George rehearsing at home and listening to them perform around Chicago with major figures such as pianists Ahmad Jamal and Andrew Hill.
The fruition of that tutelage and of the musicians' long decades of work resonate in "All in the Family," which Chico Freeman considers "an expression, a snapshot, a picture of where he and I are at this moment in time in our artistic lives. So I feel very fortunate that it can be documented."
As for the Showcase engagement, both men apparently are approaching the occasion with a sense of athletic conquest.
"We're going to have fun and just give it up – as they say in sports, leave it all on the field," says Chico Freeman.
Adds his uncle, "I'm practicing every day – every day for it. I want to be in top shape, like a prizefighter. I'm going for the heavyweight championship."
Let the music begin.
When: 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4, 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday
Where: Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Court
Tickets: $20-$35; 312-360-0234 or www.jazzshowcase.com
Doctor Jazz Magazine
Winter 2015 - 2016 (DJM 231)
by Bert Brandsma
“All in all, this album simply is a must.” – Bert Brandsma, Doctor Jazz Magazine
~ All In the Family George Freeman – Chico Freeman ~
This is a great disc with two members of Chicago’s premier musical family at its center. The Freeman's, with nephew Chico on saxophone and uncle George (born in 1927!), guitar. Except for the standard Angel Eyes the album contains purely original compositions and musical sketches of such improvisational character that no effort has been made to register them as fixed works. The opener contains a short bass solo played arco, which is hummed along one octave higher. In the late thirties and forties this was the trade mark of Slam Stewart, but since then this technique has seldom been heard.
Excellent musicianship in an attractive attitude is also at hand elsewhere. Because Chico changes from tenor to soprano sax regularly, and the line-up of sidemen is being adapted to the character of the piece involved, the record oozes variation, tranquility, and musical wisdom. Tasty, well-performed music, including a long running time of nearly an hour and 20 minutes gives great value for it's money. All in all, this album simply is a must.
[Thanks to writer Bert Brandsma and editor Eddy Determeyer for their help in translating from Dutch to English!]
by Bill Meyer
“And Kirk Brown’s jaunty piano on “Chico” sets up a commandingly swinging and
lyrically good-natured solo by George, whose tone and taste are consistently worth savoring.”
- Bill Meyer, DownBeat Magazine
~ George Freeman & Chico Freeman ~
All In The Family
Family reunions are times to reminisce. Saxophonist Chico Freeman recalls in the liner
notes to All In The Family an instance in the 1970s when his guitar-playing uncle George called him for a gig. The elder Freeman’s broad musicianship dispelled Chico’s youthful opinions on the hierarchy of musical styles, a lesson that informs the diversity of the music on this CD.
But when one is making a record, it can be good to have a dissenter on hand to challenge the merit of certain ideas. Chico’s decision to define family broadly—including associates and the sound of Chicago itself—has resulted in a record so diverse that many listeners will encounter a moment when they want to turn it off.
Of course, one can’t blame Chico for wanting to show off his high-caliber associates, and this record features many. Bassist Harrison Bankhead’s contrapuntal responses to Chico’s bluff tenor phrases are very nearly worth the purchase price alone. And Kirk Brown’s jaunty piano on “Chico” sets up a commandingly swinging and lyrically good-natured solo by George, whose tone and taste are consistently worth savoring.
But regrettable decisions at other turns tarnish the record’s luster. A handful of exotic interludes featuring percussionists Hamid Drake and Reto Weber, are enjoyable, but frustratingly brief. One would prefer to hear an entire album showcasing Chico and the percussionists instead. Pedestrian electric keyboard sounds nearly derail “Angel Eyes,” and when you hear that same instrument in tandem with Chico’s over-sweetened
soprano on “Five Days In May,” you may feel like you’ve wandered into the wrong brunch. A hard-nosed winnowing could have made a better album out of this session.
— Bill Meyer
All In The Family: Dark Blue; Interlude V-2; Latina Bonita;
Interlude V-6; My Scenery; Interlude V-9; Five Days In May; Vonski;
Interlude V-8; Inner Orchestrations; Percussion Song Two; Chico;
Interlude V-5; What’s In Between; Essence Of Silence; Interlude V-4;
A Distinction Without A Difference; Interlude V-10; Angel Eyes; Percussion
Song One; Marko; Chico & George Introductions. (79:00)
Personnel: George Freeman, guitar; Chico Freeman, tenor
and soprano saxophones; Kirk Brown, piano, Kurzweil keyboard;
Harrison Bankhead, acoustic bass and vocal; Hamid Drake, drums,
percussion; Reto Weber, hang, percussion; Mike Allemana, guitar;
Joe Jenkins, drums; Joanie Pallatto, voice (21).
Ordering info: chicagosound.com
SEPTEMBER 2015 (page 32)
by Nick Bewsey
“This understated, melodic album plays like a house party hang for the Freeman’s and their friends… There’s no doubt that the spirit of Von Freeman hangs over this warm and engaging venture.” – Nick Bewsey, ICON Magazine
MUSIC – NICK’S PICKS
REVIEWS OF STRAIGHT AHEAD JAZZ BY NICK BEWSEY
George Freeman / Chico Freeman ***1/2
All In The Family
Sometimes small records deliver big dividends in style, quality and pleasure. All In The Family is that kind of record and it’s obviously a labor of love produced by Joanie Pallatto and Bradley Parker-Sparrow, proprietors of indie label Southport Records.
Amazingly, it’s a first-time recording between two venerated Chicago jazz musicians—88-year-old guitarist George Freeman and his nephew, saxophonist Chico Freeman.
This understated, melodic album plays like a house party hang for the Freeman’s and their friends.
There’s no doubt that the spirit of Von Freeman hangs over this warm and engag-
ing venture. Von, George’s brother and Chico’s dad, was a much beloved and influen-
tial saxophonist from Chicago and gets his own tribute tune on the loose, grooving “Vonski.”
Chico’s soulful tenor sounds perfect on “Dark Blue,” a finger-popping blues with a funky bass line. “Latina Bonita” has a smooth Spanish tinge that’s sweet on the ears, while the sturdy, contemporary swing tune, “Five Days In May” highlights George’s pop-flavored guitar. Pianist Kirk Brown is also a standout, with percolating solos on “Inner Orchestrations” and the hip, modern flow of “What’s In Between.”
(22 tracks; 79 minutes)
Chicago Federation of Musicians – November/December 2015 Vol. 75 No. 9
“Who, Where, When”
by Ruth Marion Tobias
NEW RELEASE (currently heard on KJZZ in Phoenix) Southport Records and Media Sponsor WDCB 90.9fm announced the GEORGE FREEMAN – CHICO FREEMAN “All In The Family” CD release celebration at JOE & WAYNE SEGAL’S Jazz Showcase, with Kirk Brown-piano, Harrison Bankhead-bass, Ernie Adams-drums, Mike Allemana-guitar and Reto Weber-percussion.
sábado, 11 de julio de 2015
Luis Raul Montell
"My parents, rest in peace, we instilled the family first. Now we hear that George and Chico Freeman is a funny elevation, divine excellent music and family as the fusion works." –Luis Raul Montell , Jazz Caribe
Jazz Critics Poll
10th Annual Jazz Critics Poll: 2015
Ken Waxman (The New York City Jazz Record, Jazz Word)
10. George Freeman & Chico Freeman, All in the Family (Southport)
Jazz Institute of Chicago
Preview for the 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival
by Lloyd Sachs
“What would an installment of the Chicago Jazz Festival be without a Freeman family reunion?” – Lloyd Sachs, Jazz Institute of Chicago
~ CHICO FREEMAN : THE CHICAGO PROJECT, FEATURING GEORGE FREEMAN ~
SEP 4 5:00 PM JAY PRITZKER PAVILION
What would an installment of the Chicago Jazz Festival be without a Freeman family reunion? But tonight’s performance by saxophonist Chico and his guitarist uncle George will offer, in the parlance of Monty Python, something completely different. Performing music from their new Southport Records album, All in the Family, their all-star band will offer what Chico called a “panorama” of Chicago musical styles – one that will capture both the sounds the city is known for internationally (he has lived for two years in Switzerland) and some distant listener might not associate with the home of tough tenors.
And so we can expect a parcel of Chico’s brawny tenor and George’s keening bebop guitar, as well as free improvisations with AACM etched in their DNA. We can expect a sampling of the Latin fusion Chico has long specialized in and the ’70s soul jazz for which the one-of-a-kind George is celebrated. And then there is “Vonski,” George’s tribute to tenor legend Von Freeman, his departed brother and Chico’s father, a duet that is one of the album’s highlights.
At 88 more of a cult figure than ever, he has lost none of his zing or zang as a soloist, or his ability to come up with effects you simply haven’t heard before. He’s a walking repository of sounds, dating back to his playing days with Lester Young and Charlie Parker. On tenor and soprano, Chico has an excitable presence. The Freemans will be joined by longtime collaborators: Mike Allemana, Von’s longtime guitarist, pianist Kirk Brown, bassist Harrison Bankhead and drummer Ernie Adams, plus Swiss percussionist Reto Weber, who plays the hang, a steel-drum-like instrument of his own devise.
Review: The 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival
by Philip Booth
… “Tenor saxophonist Chico Freeman (the son of Chicago tenor titan Von Freeman) and his uncle, 88-year-old guitarist George Freeman, led the aptly named Chicago Project on the muscular blues, swing, Latin and ballads heard on the group’s engaging new All in the Family album.” – Philip Booth, Jazz Times
November 2015 “Opening Chorus”
by Philip Booth
“In Chicago, a royal jazz bloodline runs through several generations of the Freemans. The Freemans’ musical legacy—the family’s and that of Chicago jazz, heavily influenced by the blues and the innovations of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM)—is celebrated in royal style on All in the Family (Southport).” – Philip Booth, Jazz Times
~ George and Chico Freeman: Family Business ~
Father and son uphold more than one jazz legacy
Jazz has its share of royal families, including Heath brothers Percy, Jimmy and Tootie, from Philadelphia; Hank, Thad and Elvin Jones, from the Detroit area; New Orleans’ Marsalis and Batiste clans; Wes, Buddy and Monk Montgomery, from Indiana; and the Tampa-born Adderleys, Cannonball and Nat. In Chicago, a royal jazz bloodline runs through several generations of the Freemans.
That lineage goes way back to George Freeman, father to guitarist George, Windy City tenor titan Von and drummer Eldridge “Bruz,” and grandfather to Chico, also an acclaimed saxophonist, based in Switzerland in recent years.
About those long-established Freeman family bona fides: The elder Freeman, a Chicago cop and pianist, and his wife, a singer and guitarist, became close with Louis Armstrong, who stayed with the family when Pops first came to Chicago in the early ’20s. Von was a revered saxophone hero and mentor at home and abroad. George, now 88, played with the likes of Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins and Dexter Gordon, making a splash in New York but ultimately returning home.
The Freemans’ musical legacy—the family’s and that of Chicago jazz, heavily influenced by the blues and the innovations of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM)—is celebrated in royal style on All in the Family (Southport). The recording, co-led by George and Chico, finds the uncle and nephew joined by various associates, including guitarist Mike Allemana, pianist Kirk Brown, bassist Harrison Bankhead, drummers Hamid Drake and Joe Jenkins and percussionist Reto Weber.
“The idea of All in the Family didn’t extend only to my uncle and me—it’s also the Chicago family,” says Chico Freeman, 66. He’s seated in a second-floor alcove at the Hard Rock Hotel on Michigan Avenue, not far from Millennium Park, where the Freemans and company aired out the music from their CD with an engaging performance at the Chicago Jazz Festival on Labor Day weekend. “I wanted Chicago musicians because I wanted that spirit and that feeling that I knew, that I didn’t have to talk about.”
George is experiencing a late-career renaissance, via road shows everywhere from New York to Key West, and Chicago performances with a two-guitar quartet featuring Allemana. “I don’t know where it’s coming from,” George says a few days later, from his home on Chicago’s South Side. “But things are getting better and better. I’m surprised. I’m excited.” He first played with his nephew in the early ’70s, at a celebrated South Side club called Transitions East, since vanished. At the time, Chico wasn’t sure whether his uncle would take to the experimental-leaning vibe of the gig.
“I had had some experience with some other musicians who played in the more straight-ahead, traditional manner and found themselves in open situations, and they weren’t able to adapt, to express themselves. And I was a little afraid that my uncle might fall into that category,” Chico recalls. “But he blew my mind. He came and he played just amazingly. He was just a total musician. That changed my mind about everything. From that point on, I had the greatest amount of respect for him. And I found out that his whole mindset and approach was not limited.”
Flash forward to September 2014, when the two played together again at the Englewood Jazz Festival in Chicago, embarking on rehearsals and the recording of All in the Family shortly thereafter. The sessions were casual, spread over a couple of weeks at the digs shared by Southport Records label heads Joanie Pallatto and Bradley Parker-Sparrow. The Freemans and their bandmates recorded 22 tracks’ worth of original tunes and improvised interludes. The original music, both older and newly written, travels stylistically from mainstream to Latin and experimental, all imbued with a certain blues tinge. Included on the album are pieces George wrote for his brother (“Vonski”) and his nephews (“Chico” and “Marko”). The ballad “My Scenery” stems from the period when, in his early 20s, George traveled to New York with saxophonist Johnny Griffin. Chico’s “Dark Blue” was inspired by Ellington’s music.
It’s varied but not purposely eclectic, Chico says. “My objective with this project was to touch on some of the important and creative areas that I’ve done, and my uncle has done. The unifying factor is the originality of Chicago in those areas. There’s that free-expression, complete-improvisation aspect. There’s that Chicago groove thing that happens, a little bit of R&B. It’s not R&B, per se, but the flavor of certain things that we all have played.”
Inspired by the reception for All in the Family and the performances they’ve already given, the two are aiming for a more ambitious touring schedule next summer and fall, Chico says. He’s eager to perform and record even more music created specifically for this ensemble. George is looking forward to taking his music to more people, following a slowdown that began after Von’s death in 2012. “It’s been a fantastic year,” he says. “This is the peak of my career. I didn’t ask for it—it just happened.”
January 26, 2016
by Ken Waxman
“Like a Fernand Léger painting in a room filled with Impressionists, the elder Freeman’s playing always stands out…on “Interlude V-10”, he sounds like a mixture of Charlie Christian and Jimi Hendrix.
The younger Freeman… demonstrates his ability to go up against the heavyweights when he takes on “Angel Eyes…. if it isn’t a knock out, it’s certainly a good try for a contender.” – Ken Waxman, Jazzword
George Freeman/Chico Freeman
All in the Family
Southport S-SSD 0143
also reviewed: Chico Freeman/Heiri Känzig – The Arrival (Intakt Records CD 251)
Sessions involving fathers and children or siblings are common enough in improvised music. But All in the Family is one of the few whose chief protagonists are a nephew and his uncle. Then again like the Midwestern individuality that produced figures like Saul Alinsky and Ernest Hemingway – not to mention a Blues variant and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM) – this isn’t unexpected.
Centre of the date, plus the duo disc with Swiss bassist Heiri Känzig, is Chicago-born soprano and tenor saxophonist Chico Freeman, now a Biel residence. Son of saxophone legend Von Freeman (1923-2012), the 22 [!] track Freeman and Freeman date also shows off the undiminished guitar skills of his uncle, George, now 88, known for his work with organist Groove Holms among others. An AACM member, who also played in the bands of drummer Elvin Jones and pianist McCoy Tyner, Chico Freeman was more a sound setter than a sound explorer unlike some other AACM associates. Recently he’s also turned to restrained standards interpretations. “Angel Eyes” is on the first CD, while The Arrival includes John Coltrane’s “After the Rain” and Bobby Timmons’ “Dat Dere”. Känzig is a wide-ranging stylist who has played in group with flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler and alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano among other modern mainstreamers.
Among the backing players on the Freeman and Freeman CD are questing improvisers like percussionist Hamid Drake and bassist Harrison Bankhead. But with his unique clipped, metallic tone the guitarist is never out of place. Like a Fernand Léger painting in a room filled with Impressionists, the elder Freeman’s playing always stands out. And it maintains its individuality when his associates here could be Pop artists or Abstract expressionists. Freeman senior demonstrates that easily on “Interlude V-10”, an unaccompanied track, where he sounds like a mixture of Charlie Christian and Jimi Hendrix. Tellingly on “Vonski” his own salute to his brother, and Chico’s “Essence of Silence”, both duos with his nephew, his brittle chording modernizes King Cole trio swing on the first; while his quickened clinks and sharp string slides appear even more contemporary than the saxophonist’s Trane-oriented double tonguing and slurs on the latter.
Otherwise, like the canny retire detective brought in to add his expertise to a difficult crime case, George fits in seamlessly among the players who are two or three decades his junior. Introduced by a walking bass line and buoyed by pianist Kirk Brown’s echoing bebop riffs, “Chico” harmonizes clangorous guitar licks and the younger Freeman’s soprano saxophone vibrations, which are extended with quotes and theme variations. Using congas as well as drums, Drake shows off his versatility on the swinging “Latin Bonita”, with the guitarist stretching his solo from mariachi suggestions to a figurative walk in outer space.
Not to be outdone, guitarist Mike Allemana, who replaces George Freeman on some tracks, moves the tunes with the same solid abandon, especially on “What In Between”. An out-and-out foot tapper it’s also notable for Chico’s solid blowing and Bankhead doing one of his humming-in-tandem-with-string-bowing Slam Stewart-like solos. The younger Freeman, who often references earlier Chicago tenors throughout, demonstrates his ability to go up against the heavyweights when he takes on “Angel Eyes”, one of Gene Ammons’ signature tunes. Individualized by Brown’s keyboard slurs, if it isn’t a knock out, it’s certainly a good try for a contender.
An invaluable record of top-drawer Chicago jazz, the only quibble would be with the nine brief interludes which separate the longer tunes. While they do demonstrate individual versatility, that doesn’t have to be confirmed, and the CD would have been more cohesive without them.
Chico Freeman’s command of older and original material is made even clearer on The Arrival. Like sole survivors of a decimated unit who still defeat the bad guys, with the interface pared down to just himself and the bassist, the two manage to produce as memorable music s the larger ensemble. What they have to guard against is torpidity since some of Freeman’s compositions have a tendency to drift past relaxation to a form of New Age-like leadenness. With Känzig’s mellow bass line providing the backup, tunes such as “The Essence of Silence” and “Will I See You in the Morning”, with their pop-music styled titles are so well modulated that they appear headed for folksy romance until reed toughness and calm string strokes provide more backbone.
Like his take on “Angel Eyes” on the other disc, “After the Rain” and “Dat Dere” get respectful and inspired readings from Freeman. The former, featuring sympathetic strumming from the bassist reaches a climax of blown air following some upturned Trane-isms from the saxophonist, while the latter’s slurs and slides make the toddler-inspired melody almost animated to the point of ADHD.
As energetic as a hike through the Swiss mountains – or a sprint through Chicago’s South Side – is “Chamber’s Room” the Känzig-composed final track honoring Paul Chambers. Sluicing along with flutter tonguing and string popping prominent, this theme and telepathic connections throughout extend and reflect the message of an earlier track: “Just Play”.
Whether interacting with a contemporary or connecting with an elder, these discs show that at 66, saxophonist Freeman is still in top form.
Track Listing: Family: 1. Dark Blue 2. Interlude V-2 3. Latina Bonita 4. Interlude V-6 5. My Scenery 6. Interlude V-9 7. Five Days in May 8. Vonski 9. Interlude. V-8 10. Inner Orchestrations 11. Percussion Song Two 12. Chico 13. Interlude V-5 14. What's In Between 15. Essence of Silence 16. Interlude V-4 17. A Distinction Without a Difference 18. Interlude V-10 19. Angel Eyes 20. Percussion Song One 21. Marko 22. Chico & George Introductions
Personnel: Family: Chico Freeman (tenor and soprano saxophones); Kirk Brown (piano and keyboard); George Freeman or Mike Allemana (guitar); Harrison Bankhead (bass); Joe Jenkins (drums); Hamid Drake (drums, tabla and djembe); Reto Weber (hang, guatam, tempura, djembe and balafon) and Joanie Pallatto (vocals)
Track Listing: Arrival: 1. One for Eddie Who 2 2. Early Snow 3. The Essence of Silence 4. Ancient Dancer 5. Will I See You in the Morning 6. Dat Dere 7. Song For the Sun 8. Just Play 9. Eye of the Fly 10. After the Rain 11. To Hear a Teardrop In the Rain 12. Chamber’s Room
Personnel: Arrival: Chico Freeman (tenor saxophone) and Heiri Känzig (bass)
KBEM Jazz88FM – The Jazz Police
by Kevin O'Connor
“The focus of this gem is on revered saxophonist Von ‘Vonski’ Freeman, who left us in 2012. With its sweet interludes and seamless themes, this is one better left on “Continue” for your player, should you actually have one.” – Kevin O’Connor, KBEM
~ George and Chico Freeman: All in the Family (Southport) ~
Once in a while, the toils of a Music Director in a jazz station present a challenge. That is, every so often a recording comes along that simply blows me away but isn’t quite, in the parlance of the industry, a “radio friendly record.” Such is the case with an intimate new tribute album from the venerated first family of jazz in Chicago, the Freemans. The focus of this gem is on revered saxophonist Von “Vonski’ Freeman, who left us in 2012. Von was a true denizen of the City of Big Shoulders, having inspired countless players from Chicago.
But his sphere stretched well beyond the Midwest. Generations of players have absorbed his crafty approach to saxophone, sometimes without their knowledge. He was also difficult to pigeonhole, so it’s only right that a musical postcard should be crafted by two of his closest relatives and sidemen: Brother George and son Chico. In spite of, or perhaps all the better for, its intimacy, All in the Family is a challenge for the typical radio audience. With its sweet interludes and seamless themes, this is one better left on “Continue” for your player, should you actually have one. Having said that, you’ll hear select tracks on KBEM for at least a couple of months.
Los Angeles Jazz Scene
by Scott Yanow
“Throughout this excellent set, uncle and nephew find plenty of common ground, with Chico recalling his roots in hard bop while George is inspired to stretch himself. The end result is a spirited and highly appealing set that features both Freemans in top form.” – Scott Yanow, LA Jazz Scene
George Freeman/Chico Freeman
All In The Family
The Freeman family has long been very musical. Guitarist George Freeman and his two brothers tenor-saxophonist Von Freeman and drummer Bruz Freeman all created strong musical legacies in Chicago. The late Von’s son tenor and soprano-saxophonist Chico Freeman led many record dates during 1976-95 and has long had his own sound in post bop jazz.
All In The Family teams George Freeman and his nephew Chico on a wide ranging set of original music, all composed by one of the Freemans other than “Angel Eyes.” On various selections the two Freemans are joined by keyboardist Kirk Brown, bassist Harrison Bankhead, drummer Hamid Drake, percussionist Reto Weber, guitarist Mike Allemana and drummer Joe Jenkins. The music is primarily straight ahead with some freer moments for contrast. The highpoints include a pair of tenor-guitar duets by the co-leaders including “Vonski” (based on “Take The ‘A’ Train” and dedicated to Von Freeman). Also particularly memorable is “Inner Orchestrations,” a Chico Freeman feature that has some impressive bass playing by Bankhead. Scattered along the way are seven brief “Interludes” plus two percussion features all of which lead logically to the next number.
Throughout this excellent set, uncle and nephew find plenty of common ground, with Chico recalling his roots in hard bop while George is inspired to stretch himself. The end result is a spirited and highly appealing set that features both Freemans in top form. All in The Family is available from www.chicagosound.com.
- Scott Yanow
by Barbara Schultz
"Rhythmic and heartfelt, the album is a family affair in more ways than one."
- Barbara Schultz, Mix Magazine
~ George and Chico Freeman at Southport for ‘All in the Family’ ~
Guitarist George Freeman has crossed paths with Southport Records owner/engineer Bradley Parker-Sparrow many times since Sparrow founded the label in 1977. Freeman’s latest album, All in the Family, is a collection of blues-influenced jazz pieces recorded with his nephew, sax player Chico Freeman, and a cast of Chicago jazz stalwarts. Rhythmic and heartfelt, the album is a family affair in more ways than one. All in the Family was co-produced by Sparrow and his wife/partner Joanie Pallatto in Southport’s studio, which is situated in a former dental office in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood. “I got tired of our former studio, which had no windows,” Sparrow explains. “So we moved up into this dental office, and divided it acoustically into sectors.” With help from engineer Todd A. Carter, Sparrow recorded the session live to MOTU Digital Performer; he placed each musician in a separate space equipped with a video camera and TV monitor to keep everyone connected. Sparrow has also amassed a collection of classic tube mics and outboard gear, Pultec EQs, UREI 1176 and LA-2A compressor/limiters, and an EMT 140 plate reverb. Chico’s tenor and soprano sax were captured via a Neumann M 49. “I also used a Neumann Gefell UM 57 at the same time; it has a frisky sound on sax,” Sparrow says. “George played through a 1964 Fender Princeton tube amp,” he continues. “We used a close AKG C-12 and a Neumann U 47 farther back. We have a very old 47 that’s been happy and hot its whole life, so I could get a little attack on the strings. He’s a percussive, aggressive player.” Another thing that adds to Freeman’s percussive playing: “For a pick, he uses a dresser doorknob, a screw-on knob made out of metal,” Sparrow says. “He’s 88 years old, and he feels he gets more strength from his fingers if he uses this knob instead of a pick.”
New City Magazine
by Robert Rodi
““All In the Family” plays like an intergenerational conversation between George’s burnished, impeccable guitar and Chico’s deft and energetic sax.” – Robert Rodi, New City Magazine
~ George and Chico Freeman – “All in the Family” ~
There are few musicians more fondly remembered in Chicago than tenor sax giant Von Freeman, who died in 2012. So when Freeman’s son, Chico, also a sax man, and brother George, a celebrated guitarist, came together to record for the first time, it was hard to avoid invoking Von’s memory… especially since they chose to call the album “All In the Family.” (Titling one of the cuts “Vonski” didn’t help, either.) But beyond the nod to their late relative’s legacy, the two surviving Freemans manage to make the music entirely their own. Comprising all-original compositions (with the exception of the haunting standard “Angel Eyes,” plus a smattering of very short improvised pieces that serve almost as amuse-bouches between the more substantial tunes), “All In the Family” plays like an intergenerational conversation between George’s burnished, impeccable guitar and Chico’s deft and energetic sax. There’s a moment in my favorite cut, “Chico” (the elder Freeman’s ode to his nephew), that best illustrates the dynamic: after George concludes his solo, which consists of languid ribbons of gorgeous tone, Chico comes galloping in for his, all joyful exuberance. I’m perhaps making too much of the age vs. youth angle; Chico, after all, is no juvenile (he’s sixty-five, to George’s eighty-eight), and he wrote at least one number here—the ravishingly spare “Essence of Silence”—that glows with hard-won maturity. Uncle and nephew are the sole players on this cut, with Chico handling the plangent, crooning theme, while George delicately teases out a minimalist improvisation over (and occasionally underneath) it. There’s wisdom enough on evidence in both men’s performances. Stellar support is provided through the rest of the album by Kirk Brown on keys, Harrison Bankhead on bass, Hamid Drake on drums and percussion, Reto Weber on hang and percussion, Mike Allemana on guitar and Joe Jenkins on drums.
O's Place Jazz Newsletter
by D. Oscar Groomes
“Chico leads the charge focused on the blues based Chicago jazz sound.” – O’s Notes
~ George Freeman / Chico Freeman – All In The Family – ***3/4 ~
O's Notes: This is a true family affair featuring saxophonist Chico Freeman, son of the late Von Freeman (sax) and his lesser-known brother, guitarist George Freeman. Chico leads the charge focused on the blues based Chicago jazz sound. They achieve this by employing Chicago-based musicians including percussionist Hamid Drake and bassist Harrison Bankhead. The mission is accomplished highlighted by "Latina Bonita" and "Inner Orchestrations".
THE NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
OCTOBER 2015 (page 13)
Chicago Jazz Festival Report by Andrey Henkin
“but the focus was on Chico’s saxophone…” – Andrey Henkin, The New York City Jazz Record
Friday’s full schedule featured a wide swathe of styles… Saxophonist Chico Freeman at Pritzker Pavilion, son of the aforementioned Von, featured uncle/guitarist George (88!) as well as Von’s regular guitarist Mike Allemana, in his Chicago Project, filled out by pianist Kirk Brown, bassist Harrison Bankhead, drummer Ernie Adams and guest Swiss percussionist Reto Weber. The elder Freeman sounded pretty damn good for his age and Weber added nice touches on some self-made instruments but the focus was on Chico’s saxophone and some lengthy Brown solos.
June 2015, No. 72 (online page 112-113)
by Aaron Cohen
“If Chicago had a royal jazz family, Freeman would be its name.” – Aaron Cohen, ToneAudio
MUSIC – Jazz & Blues (review on print page 56 / online page 112-113)
George Freeman/Chico Freeman
All In the Family
Southport Records, CD
If Chicago had a royal jazz family, Freeman would be its name. Saxophonist Von Freeman—who became a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master shortly before his death in 2012—combined a warm and muscular tone with an easygoing embrace of new ideas and young musicians. His son Chico took the instrument in a different direction during the 70s and 80s, and Von’s brother George remains a local hero, especially from his time working in organ combos (such as those of Jimmy McGriff).
Had All In the Family merely functioned as George and Chico’s tribute to their departed brother and father, respectively, it would still stand as a worthy recording. But the family members go a step further by honoring Von’s spirit through creating striking original material and playing it in voices that are unmistakably their own—the kind of thing Von always advocated. They also recruit an ace group of Chicago-based musicians, most notably bassist Harrison Bankhead, percussionist Hamid Drake, and guitarist Mike Allemana. (The latter played with Von for years and is currently writing a doctoral dissertation about the saxophonist at the University Of Chicago.)
All In the Family is divided between composed pieces (primarily written by Chico or George) and brief, spontaneous statements designated as interludes. Throughout, the disc’s most compelling moments highlight the nephew and uncle’s call-and-response dialog, especially when their approaches initially seem to contrast. On George’s “My Scenery,” Chico’s soprano intonations answer the guitarist’s fragmented single-note lines. On another George composition, “Vonski,” it’s just the two of them, and Chico’s tenor hesitations and hearty tone emulate what was best about his father. During “V-5,” Chico flutters on the saxophone pads in a way that will be familiar to his father’s admirers. But Chico’s “Essence Of Silence” emphasizes his own mournful cries, to which George responds with trills until the tandem takes the piece in constantly changing directions.
A lighthearted spirit infuses the affair, and is evident on pianist Kirk Brown’s clave rhythm during “Latina Bonita.” Brown also offsets the brooding version of All In the Family’s lone standard, “Angel Eyes.” Drake, along with drummers Reto Weber and Joe Jenkins, contribute their own shifting percussive exchanges that sound inspired from West African and Middle Eastern patterns. The closing “Mark” brings all the distinctive passages together. After George’s joyfully messy intro, the tune turns into a kind of
jumping New Orleans second-line romp. It’s the proper way to send off a musical legend. —Aaron Cohen
Wall Street Journal
ARTS / MUSIC
Celebrating Sonic Experimentation at the Chicago Jazz Festival
by Martin Johnson
“Saxophonist Chico Freeman, the son of local jazz great Von Freeman (1923-2012), returned to the city with his Chicago Project, a band that featured members of his father’s band and his uncle George Freeman, a spry 88-year-old guitarist who once played with Charlie Parker.” – Martin Johnson, Wall Street Journal
Chicago Jazz Magazine
Date Posted: November 08 2015
Written By: chicago jazz magazine
Photo by Christine Jeffers
“You will always have jazz; jazz is not dead—as long as you have kids coming into this world who have rhythm and soul and a feeling.” – George Freeman
Guitarist George Freeman – In His Own Words
Guitarist George Freeman grew up with two older brothers and a father that loved music. His father, a beat cop for the city of Chicago, would invite musicians he met at various clubs to the house to jam after their sets. Although George was young, he remembers Louis Armstrong, Errol Garner and others coming over to play the family piano at the house where he still lives today. When Freeman entered DuSable High School, he studied under the legendary Chicago band director Walter Dyett, and at that point he knew he wanted play music for a living.
Starting in the late '40s, Freeman recorded with Joe Morris and Johnny Griffin, and traveling throughout the country performing. He always ended up back in Chicago and often times, as traveling musicians came through town, Freeman was asked to put together a back-up group. This allowed him to perform with and meet such artists as Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Sony Stitt and many others. He actually got to know Charlie Parker very well and is on a live Chicago recording with Parker for the Savoy label. In the mid-'50s, he started a long association with organist Richard "Groove" Holmes, and though relatively undocumented, did appear as a sideman and song contributor with Holmes on the World Pacific and Prestige labels. While working with Gene Ammons and Shirley Scott, Freeman decided against any more roadwork, and he settled down in Chicago with his family. His debut album, Birth Sign, was recorded in 1969 with help from organists Sonny Burke and Robert Pierce.
Freeman worked regularly with his brothers, saxophonist Von Freeman and drummer Eldridge "Bruz" Freeman. In the '70s, as soul-jazz was merging into disco, he produced three albums for Sonny Lester's Groove Merchant/LRC company: New Improved Funk, Man and Woman, and All in the Game. Recording companies ignored Freeman for nearly 20 years, before Joanie Pallatto and Bradley Parker-Sparrow signed him to their Southport/Orchard label, issuing Rebellion in 1995 and George Burns in 1999. Over the years, Freeman has stayed in Chicago, and has worked with an impressive array of great jazz artists, including Ben Webster, Illinois Jacquet, Sonny Stitt, Sonny Criss, Johnny Griffin, Jimmy McGriff, Les McCann, Eldee Young, Harold Mabern, Kenny Barron, Bob Cranshaw, Buddy Williams, Kurt Elling, Rene Marie, John Young, Red Holloway, and the Deep Blue Organ Trio, and lesser-known Chicagoans Lou Gregory, Lloyd Wilson, Ron Cooper, Maurice Brown, and Michael Raynor.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: How is it one household in Chicago can turn out so many great musicians?
Freeman: It all started out at 49th and Champlain Avenue. We had a Victrola in the hallway. Mother used to play Louis Armstrong. Von and my mother would be dancing, and I remember trying to dance. I remember crawling out from the bedroom, because my oldest brother, we had a ping-pong table in one of those rooms and we had a big piano in the front room. Looking at that thing, it was so big. That is the piano in the house right now. My father loved jazz, and he would bring Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller and “Fatha” Hines to the house. I don’t think we had any idea about being musicians at the time, but my father was a proud man. He would come home from work and, being a policeman, he worked between three and four different shifts, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. and 12 a.m. to 8 a.m., so that went on for a long time on 49th Street. Then, we moved to 5418 S. Park—it’s called King Drive now. Right there was 55th Street, across from Washington Park. I remember 55th had the Rhumboogie Café, which had bands, and there was also the Hurricane, I remember seeing Lester Young there in the back room. Hurricane had a bar in front and a big space in the back where they had entertainment but the Rhumboogie Café had chorus girls.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: That’s why you wanted to go there!
Freeman: I’m not going to tell you about that now! [laughs] There was the Rhumboogie Café, Hurricane, another club at 55th and Garfield Boulevard, and next to that was a cafe where they had Coleman Hawkins performing. At 55th and State we had Club DeLisa, which had a breakfast dance every Monday. The club stayed open ‘till 4 or 5 a.m. it was a nighttime job; they’d stay until 5 a.m. then go to the breakfast dance at Club DeLisa. They had chorus girls, they had a comedian and a singer. I remember Joe Williams being there and Miss Cornshake. She would take her wig off, throw it to the audience and knock them out. Back to the Rhumboogie Café: that’s how I got my start, because my father, when working that 4 to 12 shift, would come home at 12 or 1 a.m. They had all kinds of entertainment on the radio. He would turn the radio on—he had this Majestic radio he fixed up to play the bass sound. Eldridge was my oldest brother; he nicknamed himself “Bruz.” Von, Bruz, my father, and myself would come home at nighttime, and he’d turn that radio on—and that did it.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: That’s when you heard all the great music.
Freeman: They had bands on at the Hotel Sherman: Gene Krupa, John Medorsi came through there. He turned the radio on and Cab Calloway was the house band working the Amateur Hour every Wednesday. I remember Milt Hinton playing the bass, and I loved the way he played.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: These were all live broadcasts?
Freeman: Yes. Well, not Cab Calloway. Cab Calloway was the house band for the Amateur Hour, and he had his whole band there. Then the amateurs would perform and whoever won would get a $15 prize. I remember someone asked one of the winners one time, “What are you going to do with that 15 dollars?” and he said, “I’m going to pay the gas bill.” [laughs] I was in fourth grade at Birch Elementary School, some of the kids in school played music. I remember Red Holloway and David England being at the school. Of course Red played the saxophone and Dave played the drums. We were all little kids, but it just ran all the way through me. Dave was smiling; Red was smiling, chewing gum, whatever he was doing, but it just fascinated me, all the music. By this time, we were all into music, my oldest brother, Bruz, would bring home all of the latest records. He had Hawkins, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Jimmy Lafferty, Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian. Christian was the one who got me involved in playing the guitar at Rhumboogie. As a kid I would go backstage and listen to T-Bone Walker play the guitar, but a bunch of us went back there also because you could watch the chorus girls change. [laughs] I saw this dude with a white coat on and hair slicked down, black pants and black shoes on, talking to the girls. I was up there a little too long and the kids from the neighborhood let me fall. Although the next night we went back. I said, “I’m not going back up there, you let me fall.” I remember that when they let me fall, I heard this guitar going, so I went to the side door. It was open, and I looked inside and saw T-Bone Walker playing the guitar, and singing “Stormy Monday”—it fascinated me. While he was playing, women were hollering and screaming.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: You weren’t playing guitar at this point?
Freeman: No, I was just fascinated by it all. My oldest brother bringing music home, all the latest records—it was amazing. He bought a jukebox, and put it right there on the dining room table. I would play the jukebox, but in the meantime, Von was going to high school at DuSable.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: How old were you at the time?
Freeman: Eight or nine. Maybe I was 10 or 11.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: If Von was going to DuSable, he was with Captain Walter Dyett.
Freeman: Yeah, with Walter Dyett. I hadn’t started school yet. but he would tell me about Walter Dyett. It was Walter Dyett this and Walter Dyett that. He used to write arrangements for Walter. One time, Von was playing clarinet, and he had the clarinet in his locker and someone stole it. Dyett said, “You have to pay for that clarinet.” Von said he didn’t have any money. Dyett said he said, “I tell you what you do, you have to write the music for the booster band.” At that time, they had Miss Bryan Jones. Walter had the orchestra and the booster band and the concert band. She would rehearse the ‘fellas, teach them how to read, and they would play jazz in the booster band. The concert band was another thing. But Miss Bryan Jones, she would teach the kids how to write and read and never got any credit for it but she was the master. If you came too close to her, she would say: “Get back! Get back! You’re too close!” So Von went to her and got all that training.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Von was already playing saxophone?
Freeman: Yes. Then I got to DuSable, and by that time, Von was out. He and Bruz were out of that school. When I got there, the first day I went to Walter Dyett and said, “I want to be a musician.” He told me that’s good, but he didn’t show any interest. He asked me what instrument I’d like to play. I said guitar. He said, “Guitar? Can you pick another instrument?” I said, “That’s what I want to play.” He wasn’t interested in me at all.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: He knew you were Von’s brother?
Freeman: Yeah, he knew it, but he didn’t favor me. He put me out of the band two times: the first time he put me out, I slammed the door in his face, then I had joined the booster band. I didn’t get a chance like Von did, so my training came in from playing with the booster band and with Von. We moved to 58th and Michigan at that time. They called 58th Street “Dark City,” ‘cause they were shooting up around there, and carrying on. We had a police dog; we always kept the dog in the family. I had this big guitar, and I used to go through the crowded school to get to Wabash. I would walk to school with this great, big guitar—bigger than me. Walter Dyett looked at me, he was very disciplined; all the kids were scared of him. I used to take the guitar, and go to Wabash and hitchhike a wagon, one of those trucks. One day I jumped on the back of the truck. It had a ledge on it and they didn’t go very fast then. One day my Auntie caught me, and she said, “I’m gonna tell your daddy on you.” I jumped off that truck, acted like I had never jumped on there before.
I came home from school, I was scared to death of my father catching me on a truck with a guitar and schoolbooks. It was a long walk and she never told my father. Anyway, Walter Dyett would call the house, and talk to Von. Horace Henderson was playing at the Rhumboogie Café, he wanted the good musicians to play in the band, somehow or another, Von got that job working with Horace Henderson—he was “big time.” Von was ready to roam, he borrowed my father’s tuxedo and when my father saw him he said, “Boy, what are you doing with my tuxedo? You’re making more money than me, you buy your own.” So Von stayed with Horace Henderson. Later, he got drafted into theNavy; my other brother Bruz got drafted in to the Air Corps—he was a Tuskegee pilot. One day, when the war was over, he flew over the house and scared my mom half to death. She was like, “What is that noise?” Bruz called and asked if she heard him. During the war. Von was in the Navy, and they played music as guys went off to fight. Von would be playing all the marching music, and said “he would be ready to go over and fight because the music was so inspiring.” Early on, someone asked him, “Hey Freeman, didn’t you go to DuSable?” Von said, “Yeah, I’m ready to go, ready to go to glory”, the guy answered, “Man get out of that line, come in and join the band.”
Chicago Jazz Magazine: You need a saxophone in your hands instead of a gun.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Von told me he took the family Victrola and made his own saxophone out of it. Is that true?
Freeman: We had the Victrola, and my mother and Von would be dancing to Louis Armstrong. When we moved to 54th Street, we took the Victrola with us. And Von—for some reason and I don’t know how he did it—he took the speaker or something off and made a saxophone out of it.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Yeah. It had a horn-shaped speaker.
Freeman: So my daddy came home.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: —The disciplinarian. [laughs]
Freeman: … Oh surely. He came home and asked, “What happened to the Victtola?” My mother told him, “Your son took it apart and made a saxophone out of it.” My dad said, “He did what?” My father loved music more than us, but Von was scared to death. My father said, “You gotta get that boy a horn or something.” That’s when he took him down on the West Side, and bought him a C Melody. It was shaped like a tenor saxophone, but it wasn’t a tenor. He didn’t know what it was until he got to DuSable. He thought was playing the saxophone.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: That’s a great story. Do you know how your dad met Louis Armstrong?
Freeman: Yeah. My father was working at the Maxwell on the West Side. He was hanging out at the Grand Terrace Ballroom and Earl Hines was there. That was his home gig. My father would go there and meet the band and then tell them he had a son who played the saxophone. They had a club on the West Side called Martin’s, and they had a jazz band and my dad would take Von over there to play. Von went one day and after playing for five hours, they gave him a nickel. At that time my father met Louis Armstrong and all these big name jazz players, and would bring them to the house where they would play the piano. Art Tatum came by and played the piano once. Von really got into that until he was drafted into the Navy and Bruz went into the Air Corps, I was left by myself. At that time, Walter Dyett put me out of the band. The first time, I didn’t know why, the second time, he put me out while we were putting on our annual play at DuSable. They had all the students come, and Walter Dyett would direct the band. There were three of us—we were called the High Jinks. I wanted to be up there onstage but Walter was up there teaching the kids. He had some girls up there, and was talking to the girls, and I was down tuning my guitar. Every time he opened his mouth I hit the darn strings. I’m trying to tune up, and I had the amplifier up loud. I noticed he was talking, but I had no idea I was interfering with what he had to say. I noticed he was looking at me, but I still didn’t pay any attention. So he goes, “Get the hell out of here!” There I go again. I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong, but I was interfering with him talking to the kids. He had put me out—again. He did end up hiring me to play with his band, and we became the very best of friends after I got out of school. I guess he found out that I had talent. I was playing around with different bands locally. Eugene Wright, who played with Dave Brubeck, had a band called the Dukes of Swing. Before I got into the Dukes of Swing, I would take this big old guitar with nothing on it, just go to the West Side to play music, and sit in, just to do something. My mother said, “Boy you got to get a case for that guitar.” So my mom sewed me a case. I was going back and forth to the West Side playing. Next thing I know, I got with the Dukes of Swing,I never got any solos. Then Johnny Griffin—he was a little ahead of me—we got together and got a quintet, Johnny Griffin was always crazy about me for some reason.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: How old were you at this time?
Freeman: Fifteen or sixteen years old.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Was this your first “real” band?
Freeman: I was 17 then. We had this dynamic band. I always was a driver; I played hard and drove hard. Johnny Griffin would start out and they would let me close. Johnny Griffin went to DuSable, and Lionel Hampton’s band came there in the Assembly Hall. That was the treat for all the kids. Hampton was such a showman—oh my God, he had “Big Guy” Arnett Cobb playing with him. Walter Dyett asked Johnny to go onstage and play with Lionel Hampton, he was playing alto. Hampton was egging him on, and said, “You got to go on the road with us. You have to join the band.” So Johnny went with him, and Hampton was just amazing. Honest to goodness, he played. His music was, just dynamic. Everybody in his band was dynamic. He played the piano, he played a boogie woogie-type piano, he had the drummer playing the backbeat. At that time Duke Ellington was playing the backbeat. Everybody was playing the backbeat except Count Basie, ‘cause he had the guitar player strumming it.
And Jo Jones was keeping the rhythm together, playing 2-4 on the sock. Count Basie knew how to comp; he was an excellent comper. But Hampton had to have the drummers playing backbeat. Anybody knows that backbeat was one of the most dynamic beats, and they’re still playing the backbeat: all the doo-woppers and all the kids. So Hampton asked Johnny to join the band. I think Johnny was there for about two years, and then he called me and he said, “George, I’ve had enough.” [laughs]
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Didn’t Hampton have Wes Montgomery for a while?
Freeman: He did. They had a club here called the Music Room, and Hampton had a steady gig. He had Wes Montgomery in the band and Wes used to come by the house. In fact, I was playing octaves before Wes was. On the first record we made with Johnny Griffin in New York, I was playingoctaves. That was what I was playing when I had the bebop band—that was that great big sound I played. Johnny left Hampton and I happened to have a band for him. That’s when we went to New York. We were rehearsing this band, and ended up going to the Baby Grand. Joe Morris had made an appointment for us to go to there, so we took a cab, and I left my amplifier in the cab.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Great start.
Freeman: Yeah, really! So we go right to Baby Grand, and then, Joe says, “Well we’re here.” They asked, “Who?” Joe said, “Johnny and I.” The man asked again, “Who?” We told him we’re supposed to start this weekend. He said he had never heard of us, so Johnny turned and looked at me, and I never said a word—I was scared to death anyway. We left, and naturally didn’t get the gig. That was an adventure. We went back to the hotel. They had a great baritone player staying there, Illinois Jacquet and Billy Eckstine and his band were staying there. Guess what the rent was? This is 1947.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Fifty bucks a week?
Freeman: Fifty bucks? No that was downtown. Where I stayed in Harlem it was the Braddock Hotel, $1.50 a day, $3.50 a week without a bath and $5 a week, with a bath. Now, this is when bebop first hit the scene and I had heard so much talk about bebop. I read about this little bebop band on 52nd Street, so naturally when I got there, I wanted to see them. We have no job, and Joe Morris is paying the rent. The first night I got there, I was looking all cleaned and dressed up. I go outside the door and there are 50 prostitutes outside. They saw me and they said, “Come here boy.” I flew back in the hotel. I’ll never forget the year ‘cause this was in 1947.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: There was a big riot at the Braddock Hotel, so this must be after that.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Yes. In 1943 there was a race riot in front of the hotel. I think it had something to do with a black soldier killed at the hotel.
Freeman: Get out of here. It could have been.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Tough neighborhood.
Freeman: Well, when I got there, it was amazing to me, ‘cause I’m from 54th and King Drive. We had the Regal Theater, the Metropolitan Theater and the Savoy Ballroom, we had one at 55th and Garfield Boulevard and the Rhumboogie—that was beautiful, we had the Grand Church on 35th. That was beautiful. So when I got to New York City, there was nothing beautiful about it.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: I want to hear how Joe Morris got you out of this mess.
Freeman: At that time they had a manager and an agency that would book bands in New York—you had to have that. So they booked us in the Savoy Ballroom, the land of happy feet.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: In Harlem?
Freeman: Yeah. We got to play this gig. It was a very big place, high ceilings, had three bandstands. They were jitterbugging, and women were flying in the air—it was just exciting. For Lionel Hampton, the space was really for dancing. Everything he did had a heavy backbeat. So naturally, Johnny Griffin and Joe Morris were catering to that. But I was playing bebop, ‘cause the band I had in Chicago were beboppers. But in New York, we played that “shuffle” music.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: For the dancers.
Freeman: Yeah, everybody was dancing. I remember Dizzy Gillespie was there, he had James Moody with him and Dizzy was doing the best he could to cater to the people but he was doing so much bebop because his band was strictly a bebop band and it was exciting.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Did you call it bebop then?
Freeman: Yeah, when I was playing that gig, Joe Morris came by, and was like, “Miles wants to meet you.” He was just as shy as I was. After the gig, I met Miles and we went back to the Braddock Hotel. After that we ended up getting a booking in Philadelphia. That’s where it really started—Joe Morris got a gig at this club. Everyone would come out, including John Coltrane and Philly Jo Jones. They all were coming there to jam, but Johnny Griffin and Joe Morris were still playing this jump-up-and-down music ‘cause that’s what people wanted to hear. However, people in the bars didn’t want to hear the jump-up-and-down music; they wanted to hear bebop. This is when the turnaround was coming in, because of bebop. On 52nd Street, bebop was coming on strong and Johnny wanted to play it. I never thought I would end up playing with Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Parker.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Was that in Chicago you played with them? Or Philadelphia?
Freeman: I played with Bird, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins and Stan Getz in Chicago at the Pershing Ballroom. My oldest brother was working with Sarah Vaughan. He met Bird’s manager, his girlfriend or his wife. She said Bird was getting ready to go to Chicago, and we have to get a band there for him. Bruz said “my brother is there.” She asked if he could get me to play with Bird. That is how we got the gig working with Charlie Parker. When I saw Charlie, I was as happy as I could be. I never heard anyone play an alto saxophone like that. He had turned that thing around so that people would come out to the bar and start listening more.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: You have met so many great players in the history of jazz. Let me throw some names out. If you have any memories, thoughts, or stories to share, why don’t we start with Louis Armstrong?
Freeman: The only time Louis would come by the house, I was too young to realize who he was. I just admired him for his talent and the way he could sing and phrase; he could swing. I know he had a good heart. I didn’t know him personally.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: How about Bird?
Freeman: I knew him very well. We were at the Pershing Ballroom. Everybody was onstage and I happened to be the last one to come out. There was a bathroom in the back, and I was in there. They were onstage waiting for me to come out, and I heard Bird say, “We don’t start until George gets out here.” That goes to show how close we were. My brother and I played with him again. Von and I played with him the first time. The second time it was in Detroit, and I worked with him again on the West Side of Chicago. I felt like I knew him. When I first got with Bird, I was playing a great big guitar. The second time I had what was like a little “plank,” and Bird saw that guitar. “What you all need to do is come to New York City, but you all don’t have the guts!” he said. I got to know him well.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Is it ture that Bird had a big heart?
Freeman: He was a beautiful man; he was a gentleman, I’m telling you. We were onstage and he had this blues called “Bird’s Blues” or something like that. He asked me to play the introduction and I said, “Bird, I don’t know it.” So he played it, and someone else played it. He played sophisticated blues and he just smiled from ear to ear. I said to his face, “You can really play the blues.” I did a gig at the Jazz Showcase two weeks ago with my nephew Chico Freeman on saxophone, Kurt Brown on piano, Harrison Bankhead on bass, Ernie Adams on drums, Mike Allemana on guitar and Rachel Weber on the vibraphone. It’s a joy playing with Chico. We played a blues, and I had a solo, but naturally I never forgot Charlie Parker—there’s no way you are going to forget that man. For Von and I, it’s always been Charlie Parker and swing, ‘cause jazz “swung” before Charlie Parker got out there. Swinging and bebop got to me. I was playing this solo and Charlie Parker came to my mind; then comes Billie Holiday—she gets into my mind. And then, here comes Dinah Washington, she got in my mind. But by the end of the solo I was playing T-Bone Walker. I have a record called T-Bone. I was ringing the strings, and the people went crazy. Mike Allemanakept calling me a blues player. [laughs] Bird was just a wonderful man to be around. The last time I saw him was at this club on 63rd Street in Hyde Park. I just got through playing with him. He came over and I said, “Bird, c’mon, have a drink.” He turned to the bartender and said, “Get me a triple ... You told me to get a drink didn’t you?” I didn’t have the money to pay. Then shortly after that time he passed.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: There were a lot of musicians that got hooked on heroin at that time. It seemed to be a trend—not that it ever went away entirely—but there seemed to be a peak during the 1950s.
Freeman: Yeah, it started before then. But you know one thing, it could have been heroin, I understand that, but all those people could play. It was creative, and they could play, any one of them. I don’t care what color they were. They just had the edge on the music, on the ideas, on the creativity. They understood the hookup; they had it together. Even the women that were on it, they could sing better than everyone else.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Did you ever get tempted?
Freeman: No, I never got tempted. I never got involved with the musicians that asked me to do it, ‘cause I said my daddy wouldn’t like that. That’s part of why I’m still here I guess. Then again, I admire my family so much, my father, my mother and brothers.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: You can tell, as you are saying it, you can hear it in your voice how much reverence you have for your family.
Freeman: Oh yeah. It was all love. Bruz started playing the drums after he got out of the Air Corps. He went to school with Joe Segal. That’s when Joe started doing those jam sessions at Roosevelt. Bruz was the scholar, but I loved the way he played. You know, ‘cause one thing you get out of bebop is that everybody sounds like they are talking to you; it’s a language. They play things and you’re laughing at it. It could make you feel sad, happy, sentimental and it could bring joy to you. That’s when they added people out there soloing and putting lyrics to it, like taking Bird’s solo and putting lyrics to it.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Vocalese.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Your friend Kurt Elling does a lot of vocalese.
Freeman: Oh yeah. I did a record with Kurt. Kurt has always been a wonderful musician. He would come to the South Side and sit in with the group I had. That man can sing. I didn’t know the man could sing like that, but he has a beautiful voice. You know you have to listen to it before really enjoying it. That’s what I got out of bebop—they were telling a story. Now I realize things went from the “inside” to the ”outside.” Musicians that were inside were able to go out and come back in of course. They had an audience of people that wanted to hear going “out.” Even if they went “outside,” they were strong with it. They played hard; they didn’t tiptoe. They had the backbeat behind them and the drums were playing a different mode at that time.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: They would throw themselves into it. You mentioned Dinah Washington. Did you work with her much?
Freeman: I’m so glad you mentioned her. I was 18. She had just left Lionel Hampton’s band. She told him she wanted to leave on her own. He told her she couldn’t leave. Anyway, I worked for her on the West Side of Chicago. She was nothing but blues, and my little band played behind her. When she left, Jimmy, the drummer, had impregnated her. She carried that baby and continued singing the blues. I went over to her to tell her how well she sounded, and I stepped on her foot. She called me everything she could think of. [laughs] I never heard a woman talk like that before. I just looked at her because I couldn’t figure out what she was saying. She ended up putting me in her book.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: She was living in Chicago?
Freeman: Yes, and Al Carter-Bey from WHPK helped to get a street named after her, Dinah Washington Way. By the way, Al Carter-Bey is also putting out a book about Gene Ammons called, The Judge that Knows. In the book he has a page about me and Gene Ammons along with a photo of me playing with him.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: You mentioned Billie Holiday in passing. Why don’t you spend a little time talking about Billie?
Freeman: I saw her about two or three times. Every time she would be crying. I don’t know what she was crying about, but she was crying. We were at Cadillac Bob’s, a lounge on 63rd and Cottage Grove. I was playing behind her with Bruz, Von and the band. She was singing one of her ballads, and I cried, because it was so sad. She had her heart and soul into it; she was crying too. She turned around and saw me crying and asked, “What you crying about?” I said, “I’m crying because you are crying!”
Chicago Jazz Magazine: She would have been 100 this year.
Freeman: Bless her heart. I was supposed to go with Sarah Vaughan and her group. Something happened, I didn’t make it. Sarah Vaughan was totally different than Billie Holiday. Billie came up before Sarah, she came up that “hard” way. She had to go through a lot to get to where she did—they all did.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Ella was another one who came up the “band” way.
Freeman: Yeah, I was with Ella on a gig and with Johnny Griffin. We worked together in New York and Chicago at the Blue Note. Ella Fitzgerald—I knew her very well.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: You worked with the Hall of Fame of jazz vocalists. How would you compare their styles and what was it like working with them?
Freeman: Billie was laid back. She didn’t get excited, and if she did, you would feel it in a different way. Her emotions were in her singing, ‘cause she really did make me cry. She could put you in a mood, kind of sad-like. All the pretty songs are the sad ones. If you caught Ella right—and she got to scatting—you couldn’t stop her. She would blow the average person down. And Sarah Vaughan was just simply beautiful. She had the rhythmic control of the piano; she knew the piano very well.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: She was the musician of the bunch.
Freeman: Yeah, she could hear flatted fifths and major thirds and diminished, her and Billy Eckstine.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Didn’t Sarah have opera training?
Freeman: I would think she did ‘cause she was able to sing in any range. She could go low and high. She didn’t lose her vibrato until later in life, and I think that is when she got cancer in the throat. But at that time you had so many great singers.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Did you do anything with Anita O’Day?
Freeman: Never did anything with her, except listen to her on the radio with Roy Eldridge and Gene Krupa. Everyone was crazy about those three.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: She maybe the only great singer that you didn’t work with!
Freeman: She was ahead of me—one of the first to get out there. Before Peggy Lee and all of them. She turned that around ‘cause she could sing jazz. Gene Krupa got a hold of her, then Roy Eldridge got there.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Obviously you have seen a lot of the history in jazz. Do you like where it has gone?
Freeman: You will always have jazz; jazz is not dead—as long as you have kids coming into this world who have rhythm and soul and a feeling. What is changing is the concept of the music. The concept goes in different ways. You have a difference in the way it was presented in the swing era, the Glenn Miller era—saxophones and the trumpet just had a different sound. The trumpet, you could even put Miles in there. He changed things around. He was always swinging, kept a groove going. If you have got the soul and the feeling for the music, and the rhythm and get the concept, jazz would go in…
Southport in New York Times! Read below!
When the pianist Bradley Parker released his first LP in 1979, he went to the Chicago Tattooing and Piercing Company parlor on Belmont Avenue and had the album title, “Latin Black,” inked across his left forearm. This was novel among artists in the ’80s, when tattoos belonged primarily to sailors and biker gangs.
Mr. Parker — also known as Bradley Parker-Sparrow, or just Sparrow to friends, associates and detractors — did the same for his next three albums, all recorded for Southport Records, the Chicago label he owns and operates with his wife, the vocalist Joanie Pallatto. By the time he recorded “The Desert Rat Suite” in 1991, tattoos were no longer novel; also, he was running out of body parts to inscribe. So the tattoos stopped... (read more)
Thanks to Rick Kogan for his Sidewalks column in the Chicago Tribune Sunday, 9/29/13:
Kogan writes about the new CD, "Days with Joanie & Sparrow":
"How easy it is to like and admire these two. And to adore "Days." It is their best work, a wonderful, stirring, provocative gathering of 11 original songs."