In 1982, Chicago saxophonist Chico Freeman was a key member of the legendary “Young Lions” concert at Lincoln Center that included other stars-to-be Wynton Marsalis, Kevin Eubanks, Paquito D’Rivera, and Bobby McFerrin, among others. Today Freeman merits being called a “master on his instrument,” and has perfected an immediately recognizable approach to music and composition, blending what he has experienced from his past and providing fluidity into a future of infinite musical possibilities.
Freeman amassed a diverse resume, performing R&B, blues, hard bop and avant garde. His collegiate studies in Advanced Composition and Theory at Northwestern University led him to teach composition at the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) Music School, and while attaining his Masters in Composition and Theory at Governor State University, he studied composition with NEA Jazz Master Muhal Richard Abrams. Through apprenticeships in New York and abroad with such innovators as Elvin Jones, Don Pullen, Sam Rivers, Sun Ra, and Jack DeJohnette, Freeman developed his own group and rapidly rose to prominence with his energetic and exploratory style.
Although jazz was the first music Freeman was exposed to, many of his early professional gigs were at Chicago
Photo by Lois Gilbert
clubs with such blues artists as Memphis Slim, and Lucky Carmichael, and Freeman’s broad list of credits includes many high-profile jazz, pop, Latin and R&B artists: Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Charles Mingus, Jack DeJohnette, Art Blakey, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Hank Jones, Freddie Cole, Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson, Roy Haynes, Von Freeman, Arthur Blythe, Billy Hart, Lester Bowie, Famadou Don Moye, Cecil McBee, Kirk Lightsey, John Hicks, Mal Waldron, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Eurythmics, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Sting, Chucho Valdes, Tito Puente, Machito, Irakere, Arturo Sandoval, Celia Cruz, Giovanni Hidalgo, Paulinho DaCosta, Nana Vasconcelos, Ray Barretto, Eddie Palmieri and Puerto Rico’s famous El Gran Combo.
Chico is a member of the Freeman family, Chicago’s First Family of jazz. His father is the legendary saxophonist Von, and his uncles include guitarist George and drummer Bruz. Although Freeman has adopted the instrument of his father, it was not his first instrument, as he reveals in this exclusive CJM interview.
Chicago Jazz Magazine: Talk a little about what it was like growing up with your father, Von Freeman, and what the jazz scene was like back then.
Chico Freeman: When I was young we had lots of kids on my block. We had one family with fifteen kids, which was great because you hardly had to leave the block to play. During summer, my dad would have rehearsals. He had the piano in the living room, so when on the front porch you could sit and actually look inside the house through the window and see the piano. I remember seeing people like Leroy Vinnegar, Malachi Favors and Andrew Hill. Other Chicago musicians would come and play with the Freeman Brothers band. The band included my uncle George on guitar and my uncle Bruz on drums. They’d set up in the living room and have a rehearsal. We’d have all the windows open because we didn’t have air conditioning and they would start playing. Within minutes, the front porch was filled with kids; we’d have a big party outside with all my friends. The funny thing is, Richard Davis, the bass player, lived across the street from us, and down the street was Frank Leslie, whose auntie was Abbey Lincoln from Chicago. There was always somebody famous hanging around the house. I was just used to musicians coming over. It was really fun. They were just people that I knew as a kid, with my brother and two sisters at the time. That’s what my dad did. My mom took me to the Regal Theater when I was five––it was kind of like the Apollo of Chicago. She took me to see my dad play with Miles Davis, and that was the band with Coltrane, “Cannonball” and Paul Chambers. I remember him standing next to Miles and Coltrane, playing.
Read the Full Interview Here.... READ HERE
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