George Freeman

“The guitarist's control of pianissimo tone, meticulousness of chordal voicing and delicacy of melodic embellishment represented some of his best work of recent vintage.” Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

Austria Festival  1

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Guitarist George Freeman is a 91 year old  American jazz guitarist born in Chicago. By mid-1947, Freeman was a member of a sextet led by jazz legends Johnny Griffin and Joe Morris[1] and supporting touring musicians such as Lester Young and Charlie Parker. He recorded with Charlie Parker for the Savoy label “One Night In Chicago”.  You can count on two hands the number of musicians alive today who recorded with Charlie Parker. Among them are drummer Roy Haynes, saxophonist Sonny Rollins, vocalist Annie Ross, guitarist Mundell Lowe (94 at this writing), percussionist Candido Camero (now 95) – and George Freeman. His story starts there. But even more remarkable is the fact that George continues to perform, record, and impress audiences who have no idea of his history. His rough-hewn approach has ripened over the years, and maybe even mellowed; on ballads, he dips a little deeper into an emotional wellspring fed by the cry of the blues and a moaning poetry. But to this day (as on this album’s “That’s All”), he still drops in those licks from outer space. In the mid-1950s, he started a long association with organist Richard "Groove" Holmes, appearing as sideman and song contributor on Holmes' World Pacific and Prestige.  After touring with Gene Ammons and Shirley Scott, Freeman decided against any more road work and has been based in Chicago.

 

He is the brother of tenor saxophonist Von Freeman and drummer Eldridge "Bruz" Freeman and the uncle of saxophonist Chico Freeman.  George and Von collaborated frequently throughout their careers. Other musicians he has worked with include Ben Webster, Illinois Jacquet, Sonny Stitt, Sonny Criss, Charles Earland, Jimmy McGriff, Les McCann, Eldee Young, Harold Mabern, Kenny Barron, Bob Cranshaw, Buddy Williams, Kurt Elling, Red Holloway, Corey Wilkes, and the Deep Blue Organ Trio.

 

Freeman with this remarkable early success, however, never cared for the kind of life on the road that's required to build a global name. Despite successes in the 1940s and '50s, and later, in New York and beyond, Freeman always returned to Chicago. Now, at 90 years old though, that glory seems to be coming to him, and it's richly deserved. The harmonic sophistication of his playing, as well as its palpable joy, makes Freeman an inspiration to younger musicians such and to anyone who values the distinctly hard-hitting, hard-swinging, ever-experimenting nature of Chicago jazz.  George now has a new CD  out produced by SiriusXM Jazz Director Mark Ruffin on the Blujazz Label, “90 Going On Amazing”.  

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