Earl Lavon Freeman jazz tenor saxophonist, originally became known for his work with the Horace Henderson Group during the Late 1940s, and Sun Ra’s band in the early ’50s. During that period, he also played with his musical brothers, drummer Bruz (Eldrige) Freeman and guitarist George Freeman, (with pianists including Ahmad Jamal, Andrew Hill, and Muhal Richard Abrams). Chicago Tribune critic Howard Reich says, “…For technical brilliance, musical intellect, harmonic sophistication and improvisatory freedom, Von Freeman has few bebop-era peers.”
The Chicago Reader’s Monica Kendrick adds “He changes everything he touches, mostly for the better, with his swaggering tenor tenderness.”
Along with his contemporaries Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin, and
Clifford — the founder of the “Chicago School” of tenor players which adapted the work of Lester Young and Ben Webster, and influenced a number of players including Johnny Griffin & Clifford
Jordan. To round out the musical family, the saxophonist’s son Chico Freeman is also a well-known jazzman.
In the early 1960s, Freeman toured with Milt Trenier and, despite reasonably regular appearances in New York and Europe, the 75-year-old Freeman has remained to this day in Chicago, where you can see him almost weekly at clubs like Andy’s, and has been the host of legendary jam sessions, like his Tuesday events at the New Apartment Lounge. You can catch him with the likes of John Young, Jodie Christian, Mike Raynor, Bettye Reynolds, Kurt Elling, and the rest of his musical family. His 75th birthday was celebrated with a headlining slot at the 1997 Chicago Jazz Festival. He joined one of the city’s youngest tenor stars, Frank Catalano, in an afternoon set at the 1999 Fest.
His releases are still hard to find (especially on CD), but include Doin’ It Right Now (1972, Atlantic), Have No Fear (1975, Nessa), Young and Foolish (1977), Walkin’ Tuff! (1988, Southport), Never Let Me Go (1992, Steeplechase) Lester Leaps In (1992; Steeplechase), Serenade & Blues, and the recent tenor duet with Ed Petersen, Von and Ed (1999, Delmark), in addition to collaborations with April Aloisio, Steve Coleman, Chico and George Freeman, Yusef Lateef, Joanie Pallatto, Bradley Parker-Sparrow, and Louis Smith.
Biography originally published on allaboutjazz.com