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All About Jazz: Chico Freeman Plus+tet: One of the Best Performances of the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival

Freeman paced a nearly perfect set marked by exquisite writing and a top-shelf supporting unit. “Crossing the Sudan” was a programmatic ride on a camel that morphed into “Freeman,” a stunning feature for the drums of Nasheet Waits. The gospel tinge of “To Hear a Teardrop in the Rain” had pianist Anthony Wonsey digging deep for a masterful display of chops and soul. As a tip of the hat to Pittsburgh’s own Stanley Turrentine, Freeman’s take on “Soft Pedal Blues” spoke to his significance as a talent who has been too long deserving of wider recognition. Vibraphonist Warren Wolf tipped his hat to the great Bobby Hutcherson on the fiery “African Village,” a reasonable conclusion to what was one of the best performances of the festival.

Chris Hovan, All About Jazz

Chico Freeman in Chicago Jazz Magazine: In His Own Words

Thanks Mike Jeffers and everyone at Chicago Jazz Magazine for honoring me with your cover and one of the most in-depth interviews I’ve done!

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.

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. I’ll never forget that; I can see it clear as day. Ironically, John Coltrane died on my birthday, so there’s kind of a connection there that’s really unique.”

Read more at http://www.chicagojazz.com/chico-freeman

Chico Freeman Plus+tet Headlines the Pittsburgh Jazz Live International Festival

Excited to play the Pittsburgh JazzLive Festival this Sunday with Chico Freeman Plust+tet with Chico Freeman on tenor, Warren Wolf on vibes, Anthony Wonsey on piano, Gregg August on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums The line-up for this almost entirely free festival is off the chain: The Bad Plus, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Roy Ayers, Linda May Han Oh, Allan Harris, Tia Fuller, Sean Jones, Angélique Kidjo, David Sanborn, Hudson and so much more. I’m arriving early so I can get to those late night jam sessions, I’ve heard so much about. We’ll have a blast! Learn more at http://pittsburghjazzlive.com

Chico Freeman Plus+tet at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola June 7 and 8

I’ll be celebrating my one year anniversary of returning to the States at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola June 7 and 8 with Chico Freeman Plus+tet: Chico Freeman/tenor, Warren Wolf/vibes, Anthony Wonsey/piano, Kenny Davis/bass Nasheet Waits – drums. We’ll be tipping our hat to Bobby Hutcherson, and I’ve got some new music to present to you as well as some of your favorites.

Chico Freeman Plus+tet at An die Musik in Baltimore June 1 and 2

The Chico Freeman Plus+tet makes their debut in Baltimore, Maryland at An die Musik Thursday June 1 at 8 and 10 pm and Friday June 2 at 8 and 10 pm. The stellar group includes Chico Freeman – tenor saxophone, Baltimore’s own Warren Wolf on vibes, DC native sons Billy Hart on drums and Corcoran Holt on bass, plus Anthony Wonsey on piano. We’ll be tipping our hat to the great Bobby Hutcherson who Chico played and recorded with many times. This is the first time I’m playing in Baltimore in more than a dozen years, so I hope you’ll come out and support this incredible group.

An die Musik LIVE!
409 North Charles Street Second Floor
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
888.221.6170
410.385.2638

Chicago Tribune: “Saxophonist Chico Freeman upholds noble family traditions”

“Have you ever ridden a camel?”

The question doesn’t arise often in jazz performances, but it was pertinent Thursday night at the Jazz Showcase, where tenor saxophonist Chico Freeman posed it.

“A horse walks around in 4/4,” explained Freeman, referring to a musical time signature suggesting a steady gallop.

On a camel, however, “the hump gives you an extra something,” he continued, miming the motion of sitting atop the moving beast. “So I wrote this next song because of the rhythm I felt riding a camel.”

And with that, Freeman and his Plus+Tet launched into “Crossing the Sudan,” its slightly off-kilter meter and unexpected syncopations indeed conveying the idea. Add to that his quartet’s arid textures and the exotic harmonies of the tune, both of which evoked “Caravan,” and you had a most unusual centerpiece to a consistently intriguing first set.

Yes, Freeman is very much his father’s son — meaning the fierce individuality of his work reflects that of Von Freeman, one of the most admired Chicago tenor men (he died in 2012, at age 88). But Chico Freeman reflects the spirit more than the letter of the great Vonski’s art, in that Chico Freeman’s sound is cooler, his tone less keening, his delivery not so hypervirtuosic. Or at least that was the case on this night.

At the same time, though, every piece that Freeman performed was built on unusual melodic structures, unconventional phrase lengths and constantly shifting rhythmic syntax. Nothing he played fell into convenient patterns; everything strove to say something different. And that, of course, stands as a Freeman family signature, upheld to this day by the saxophonist’s uncle, 90-year-old guitarist George Freeman (who will join the ensemble on Sunday).

The most serenely effective moments of the set occurred toward the end, with Chico Freeman’s ballad “Dance of Light for Luani.” Dedicated to his daughter, the tune stood out for its sublimely understated melody. Freeman delivered this valentine with throaty low notes and not a hint of sentimentality, saying a great deal with a few, well-chosen pitches. The simplicity and straightforwardness of this music proved disarming.

In this piece, and others, drummer Rudy Royston played a pivotal role, his work ranging from barely hinted pianissimos to tautly controlled fortissimos. More than anyone else in the band, Royston served as Freeman’s foil. The drummer answered Freeman in some passages, challenged him in others, but constantly responded to the emotional contours of Freeman’s statements.

Bassist Kenny Davis offered a warmly lyrical manner throughout, especially in his opening solo to Antonio Farao’s “Free Man” (from Freeman’s “Spoken Into Existence” album). This was poetry in motion, Davis sustaining an unmistakable line even amid fleetly nimble passagework.

What this quartet needed, however, was more sound and presence from pianist Anthony Wonsey. Without a fuller chordal accompaniment, the band couldn’t project as much tone and color as Freeman’s scores demanded.

Wonsey finally found some energy in Freeman’s “Blues Like,” the set’s finale. Freeman hit hard here, too, his wide-open horn calls and crisply articulated runs finding ample support from drummer Royston and bassist Davis.

If these musicians can summon this degree of common cause earlier in their sets, an already strong performance will become that much more striking.

Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

Chico Freeman to headline Ballard Jazz Festival, Seattle, Washington

 The Ballard Jazz Festival, Seattle’s most anticipated and community oriented jazz event, will take place May 17-20, and will headline legendary saxophonist, Chico Freeman.

Dubbed trree decades ago as one of the “young lions” of jazz for his participation in recordings with other “stars to be,” such as Wynton Marsalis, Kevin Eubanks, and Paquito D’Rivera, Freeman’s career has established him as one of the true modern masters of the saxophone, and jazz composition. Freeman will be featured at the festival finale, saturday evening’s Mainstage Concert, and will be accompanied by the George Colligan Trio, featuring Seattle born and bred musicians Matt Jorgensen, and Evan Flory-Barnes. Opening for Mr. Freeman will be Scenes, the transcendent guitar trio featuring John Stowell, iconic bassist Jeff Johnson, and drummer John Bishop. For this performance they will be joined by Rick Mandyck, a Seattle saxophone legend who after a fourteen year absence, is making his presence felt on the local scene

Spanning four days in the historic Ballard neighborhood, the festival has maintained its community feel throughout it’s history, this year celebrating its 15th edition. Each year, the festival attracts national and international talent surrounded by the best of the Seattle jazz scene. “I want to make sure it’s a local festival, so it sounds like Seattle,” says festival organizer and Seattle jazz impresario John Bishop, “It will be a celebration of that.” Each year, rather than simply bring in marquee talent from around the country, national talent is paired with northwest musicians, creating a great opportunity for musicians and fans alike to mingle. This is rooted in the awareness of what makes a jazz scene vital, whether at the festival, or in clubs throughout the year, that “the hang” is essential, and creates a vibe that is compelling and welcoming. Promoted and staged by Origin Records, the Seattle jazz label operated by drummers Bishop and Matt Jorgensen, this year’s event also celebrates the 20th anniversary of the highly regarded label.

The festival celebrates the multiple musical crosscurrents that constitute the Seattle jazz community, mixing traditional and cutting edge elements. For example, during Friday evening’s jazz walk, within two blocks one can experience the experimentalism of the Tables and Chairs showcase, premier jazz vocalists such as Greta Matassa and Gail Pettis, and brilliant Spanish pianist Marina Albero. This multiplicity of sounds that together form this music we call jazz, is displayed prominently throughout the four day event. For more info visit: http://ballardjazzfestival.com

 

Chico Freeman nominated “Best Jazz/Blues Superstar of the Year” Chicago Music Awards

Chico Freeman nominated for “Best Jazz/Blues Superstar of the Year” for the Chicago Music Awards and his uncle George Freeman is nominated “Best Jazz Entertainer”
Voting is open to the public worldwide Click here to vote. Saxophonist and composer Chico Freeman has been nominated for the Chicago Music Award in the top category of “Best Jazz/Blues Superstar. “I’m very honored and also quite surprised since I only moved back to the United States less than a year ago. For so many people to notice I’m back is very meaningful to me,” says Chico. Voting is free and open to the public worldwide. In addition to Chico’s nomination, his uncle, guitarist George Freeman who turns 90 in April, has been nominated for “Best Jazz Entertainer.” Winners will be announced on March 18, 2017 at the 36th annual Chicago Music Awards and Dance Party to be held at Stephen M. Bailey Auditorium in Chicago. For more information and tickets visit Chicago Music Awards.

Chico Freeman @ NYC Winter Jazzfest

Chico Freeman Plus+tet  makes their NYC Winter Jazz Fest debut on Friday January 6 at 10:20PM at the Zinc Bar, 82 West 3rd St. New York, NY 10012. Recently he gave some answers to some questions on the minds of a lot of folks.

Is social justice important to you and why?

Social justice to me is really justice for all human beings. Martin Luther King said it best. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Have you been inspired by recent events in the world and here at home to make your music more political or socially-charged?

No I have not and that is because I believe jazz in it’s DNA is political and socially charged. My music is an expression of the times and my view of the world as I believe it is with most if not all jazz musicians and artists in general.

What does the word jazz mean to you and how is it different today in our modern era? Is it still relevant and how so?

I dislike the word jazz. However, for me the term as it is accepted today, it is the search for truth and that truth being who and what the artist is expressing at that and any given moment.

What does Thelonious Monk’s music mean to you? What does it spark in you when you hear it played or play it yourself?

Thelonious Monk’s music is innovative and just as compelling today as it was when he created it. It is an inspiration for me in my composing and improvisational skills. It is a challenge to play and a joy at the same time.

 

London Jazz News: Chico Freeman Plus+tet – Cadogan Hall (November 2016 EFG London Jazz Festival)

First off, a set by Chico Freeman’s brilliant quartet that surpassed expectations and second, a presentation by the Cookers that somehow fell short of their very best. Long one of jazz’s wanderers – Chico Freeman returned to the United States in May 2016 after more than a decade living in Europe – Freeman, as he reminded us, had been an absentee from London for quite a while and seemed genuinely glad to be back. His latest band, the Plus+tet, has been touring the US behind a new album Spoken Into Existence and this version brought into focus the experienced Chicago bassist Kenny Davis, plus new find pianist Luke Carlos O’Reilly and the dynamic young drummer Michael Baker.

“An opening number based on bombast, with Freeman channeling Coltrane in a turbulent solo, Baker out-gunning Elvin Jones in the racket he offered, suggested a hard road ahead. Happily, the set took on a more settled feel with Erica’s Reverie. Named for one of Chico’s five daughters as he told us, this lyrical piece took Freeman’s tenor into softer territory, eloquent and poised, O’Reilly’s perfect piano alongside, the quartet’s intensity building. Freeman is very definitely his own man, a view consolidated with his To Hear A Teardrop In The Rain, this prompting a sumptuous tenor solo, its soulful development recalling Freeman’s roots in Chicago blues. A rousing up-tempo piece to finish and he was gone. Far more than just another Coltrane disciple, Freeman remains an exciting contributor as both soloist and composer. He needs to be heard.

Peter Vacher, London Jazz News