Von Freeman | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Von Freeman 

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When Chicago tenor saxophonist Von Freeman turned 80 a couple years ago he was feted in grand style, with birthday concerts at Symphony Center and the Chicago Jazz Festival, an honorary doctorate from Northwestern, an award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and a street renamed in his honor. But he refuses to rest on his laurels: he still leads his Tuesday-night jams at the New Apartment Lounge, and on his new album, The Great Divide (Premonition), he sounds stronger and more focused than ever. On hiatus from his regular working band (with whom he made 2002's excellent The Improviser), Freeman recruited a topflight New York trio for the new release: pianist Richard Wyands, bassist and onetime Chicagoan John Webber, and drummer Jimmy Cobb, who played on the Miles Davis classic Kind of Blue and Freeman's 1972 debut as a leader, Doin' It Right Now. The title of the new album refers to the differences between Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and Coleman Hawkins, three musicians Freeman feels "define the sound of the jazz saxophone." Although Freeman has played with and learned from all of them, his style is his own, distinguished by a wonderfully sharp attack, a plush low end, a harmonically advanced upper register, and a mastery of both bebop phrasing and tender, bluesy balladry. The record release shows at the Green Mill will feature his working band--drummer Mike Raynor, guitarist Mike Allemana, and bassist Matt Ferguson--and veteran Chicago pianist John Young. $10. Friday, July 16, 9 PM, and Saturday, July 17, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552. And free on Tuesday, July 20, 10 PM, New Apartment Lounge, 504 E. 75th; 773-483-7728.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.

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