James’ Brand New Blog

RIP jazz giant Von Freeman (Oct. 3, 1923 — Aug. 11, 2012)

- August 25th, 2012

 

von_freeman

Believe this photograph is of Von Freeman receiving The University of Chicago’s Rosenberger Medal, which “was established in 1917 . . . [and recognizes] achievement through research, in authorship, in invention, for discovery, for unusual public service, or for anything deemed of great benefit to humanity.” Past recipients include Toni Morrison, Pierre Boulez, and Frederick Wiseman. . . . he was also a recent NEA honoree: The National Endowment of the Arts just announced their 2012 Jazz Masters Awards, which recognize, with Lifetime Honors“living musicians for career-long achievement.“ And the winners are Jack DeJohnette, Jimmy Owens, Charlie HadenSheila Jordan, and Von Freeman. Words & image courtesy of Richard McLeese’s http://musicclipoftheday.com

Tracking down some information on Don Cherry’s ace Blue Note album Where is Brooklyn?, JBNBlog found a jazz site pointing to the Chicago Tribune’s obituary for tenor saxophone titan Von Freeman.

So now I am listening to Von Freeman’s Young & Foolish, a Daybreak/Charly LP of an Aug. 12 (!), 1977, gig recorded at Singer Concert Hall, Laren, The Netherlands. There is more than 50 minutes of music by Freeman, with his big tone & Coleman (a pun) Hawkins-esque command, and his quartet — John Young, piano; David Shipp, bass; Charles Walton, drums.

The Dutch audience is heard a bit at the start of Side 2, which is on the turntable now. ”Here’s the story of my life . . . Young & Foolish,”  Von Freeman says . . . then the great Vonski (his nickname among friends, the Trib  says) or somebody in the band adds “now old & foolish” to more laughter and applause. There is a magnificent Freeman solo soliloquy during the close of the 17-minute track.

Now, it’s time for Bye Bye Blackbird. The audience applauds as Freeman shrillsquawks that famous melody, settling into big smooth notes for the bridge.

Von Freeman spent most of his life in Chicago, becoming a legend. Musicians came to seek him out & his son Chico Freeman became a star . . . I may have a CD of them playing together somewhere. Will check it out.

The Tribune obituary has many classic details about Freeman. It straightens out his year of birth . . . which led to some confusion when he was saluted on his 75th birthday, he was only 73 apparently and an 80th birthday honour when he was, well, read on  . . . here are some fine words from Howard Reich, Tribune arts critic/jazz critic:

(His wider recognition) happened quite belatedly, with a 75th birthday celebration in Grant Park during the Chicago Jazz Festival (1997, though Freeman was 73); a DownBeat cover story, his first in a major jazz magazine (2001); an 80th birthday celebration in Symphony Center, in which he told the audience, “I feel like a king” (2002, Freeman was 79); and two stunning recordings — the best of his career — on Premonition (“The Improvisor,” of 2002, and “The Great Divide,” of 2004). Though the acclaim didn’t make Freeman a household name, except in some very sophisticated households, it brought him a measure of recognition he never sought and certainly never expected.

He had only one regret about his late-in-life accolades, he told NPR in 2004. “I’m sorry that my mother didn’t live to see it,” he said. His mother died in 1998, at age 101.

“That makes me almost want to cry,” Freeman continued, because “she never really wanted us to play music, but after we behaved ourselves to a certain extent, she was proud of us.

“And she stuck it out with us, and she never saw any of us really make it, you know. And now … I don’t think I’ve made it, but, I mean, at least I’m being sought after for this 15 minutes.”

 

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