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Von Freeman

Not nearly as famous as his son Chico Freeman (also a tenor saxophonist), Von Freeman was nevertheless an equally -- if not more so -- accomplished jazz musician. While not a free jazz player per se, Von exhibited traits commonly associated with the avant-garde: a roughly hewn, vocalic tone; a flexible, somewhat imprecise approach to rhythm, and a fanciful harmonic concept. The son of a ragtime-loving policeman and guitar-playing housewife, Freeman himself began playing music around the age of two, beginning on the family piano. He was surrounded by music from a young age; his maternal grandfather and uncle were guitarists, and his brothers George and Bruz also became jazz musicians (on guitar and drums, respectively). At the age of seven, Freeman made a primitive saxophone by removing the horn from his parents' Victrola and boring holes in it. Shortly thereafter he began playing clarinet, then C-melody saxophone. Louis Armstrong was an early influence.

Freeman attended Chicago's DuSable High School, where his band director was the famed educator Captain Walter Dyett. He also learned harmony from the school's chorus director, Mrs. Bryant Jones. Freeman worked for about a year with Horace Henderson's Orchestra (1940-1941). He played in a Navy band while in the military (1941-1945). Following that, he played in the house band at Chicago's Pershing Ballroom (1946-1950), and for a time with Sun Ra (1948-1949). While at the Pershing, he played with many of the top jazz musicians who passed through town, including Charlie Parker. Freeman developed an underground reputation among Chicago-area musicians, and purportedly influenced members of the city's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Freeman seldom left Chicago and recorded infrequently, therefore never achieving a great measure of fame.

Freeman recorded with Milt Trenier for Cadet in the mid-'60s; Rahsaan Roland Kirk produced a Freeman session for Atlantic in 1972. In the late '70s (as his son Chico became well-known) Von was discovered by a somewhat wider audience. In 1982, Chico and Von shared a Columbia LP with pianist Ellis Marsalis and his sons Wynton and Branford (Fathers & Sons). In the '90s Freeman recorded for the Steeplechase and Southport labels. Freeman was one of the great individualists of the tenor saxophone, and remained creatively vital through the end of the millennium. Freeman died of heart failure in 2012. ~ Chris Kelsey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Best Of Von Freeman On Premonition

Disc 1

2. This Is Always

3. My Little Brown Book

4. Blue Bossa

5. If I Should Lose You

6. Didn't We

7. I'll Never Be Free

Disc 2

1. I Like The Sunrise

2. Blue Pres

6. Violets For Your Furs

7. Ski-Wee

8. Blues For Sunnyland

9. This Is Always

Disc 3
x

Track List: The Great Divide

1. Von: 'You Ready?'

2. Be My Love

3. Never Fear Jazz Is Here

4. This Is Always

5. Chant Time

6. Von: 'Everybody Mellow?'

7. Blue Pres

8. Disorder At The Border

9. Hard Hittin'

10. Violets For Your Furs

x

Track List: Doin' It Right Now

1. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

2. White Sand

3. Lost In A Fog

4. Portrait Of John Young

5. Doin' It Right Now

6. Catnap

7. Sweet And Lovely

8. Brother George

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Von Freeman , father of my friend Chico freeman was a product of his time in that he brought that full robust testosterone sound that took over the entire song yet was very intricately a part of an ensemble. This ability is unique to musicians who understand the importance of the whole and seek not the solo but the composition.
Report as inappropriate
iamthebigfis h
A great musician and an even better friend...... . m i s s you Vonsky .... Bigfish
Report as inappropriate
Very nice. Wish I'd heard him before...rea l l y pretty sound.
Report as inappropriate
coolmarshmal l o w l o v e r
Kiss your hand 10 times
Say your crushes name 15 times
Post this on 2 other stations
Look at your hand
Report as inappropriate
I had the opportunity to see Mr. Freeman at The Apartment Lounge in Chicago a couple of years ago. A totally incredible performance. T h e Apartment Lounge is a great space as well. Talk about transcending back in time with Jazz...Von Freeman is an unadulterate d Jazz musician that takes you back and brings you well into today. What a legend.
Report as inappropriate
thanks for that knowledge geri. i was unaware that he was still around. ran across his music some years ago and he blew me away. keep blowing von.
Report as inappropriate
george.r.mil l s
Just bopping along writing my code. Then one part just grabs my complete attention. Really great artist. Unfortunatel y Von Freeman just raised the bar for all the artists I will listen to. Don't you hate it when that happens. :)
Report as inappropriate
foxg6
Someone should get him to record with his current group--the Von Freeman Quintet. All the musicians are fabulous in their own right!! Von is still going strong.

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