George Freeman Unit | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

George Freeman Unit 

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To best discuss the circumstances of George Freeman's recent Southport album Rebellion, I paraphrase George Burns (in discussing his intermittent film career): Apparently, people were so fond of Freeman's previous album, released in 1969, that they asked him to do another one. Seriously, though. It defies logic that a quarter century should pass between dates by this monumentally quirky guitarist, whose style fits into a category occupied by such equally iconoclastic contemporaries as Sun Ra, Wilbur Campbell, and his own brother, Von Freeman. "Scenic Chicago" might best describe this category, since it comprises musicians who during the 40s and 50s strayed off the beaten path to find their own unmistakable--and often rather odd--solutions to then-current musical questions. In George Freeman's case, this results in solos distinguished by off-kilter phrases and little of the developmental logic you'd expect from a man who grew up with bebop; Freeman taps other sources, like late swing and early R & B, in forging a style that suggests the jazz-guitar pioneer Charlie Christian on hallucinogens. He plays with an overripe tone and has the ability to heave a solo from conventional realms to the satisfyingly bizarre at a moment's notice: he chooses notes that few would find at all (and fewer still would find compatible). This--just in case I haven't made it clear--is usually a good thing. Freeman's band appears as part of the weekend-long Southport Records Festival, highlighting this Chicago label's impressively eclectic roster; it's cosponsored by WBEZ FM, which employs this writer. Also on Saturday's bill: drummer-composer Damon Short's ensemble and Brazilian-flavored vocalist April Aloisio. Friday's CD-release party for the new album by trumpeter Bobby Lewis also features vocalist Joanie Pallatto and a new guitar-tuba-percussion trio led by Dave Onderdonk. And if you get this paper early, the fest actually starts Thursday, June 8, with another CD-release party and no less than four bands. Saturday, 8 PM, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/B.P. Sparrow.

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