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George and Chico Freeman

George Freeman ­– Guitar
Chico Freeman – Soprano and tenor saxophones
Kirk Brown – Piano
Harrison Bankhead – Bass
Hamid Drake – Drums and percussion
Reto Weber – Percussion
Joe Jemkins – Drums
Joanie Pallatto – Voice

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.

By: Hrayr Attarian

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