Von Freeman was a tenor saxophonist praised for his technical brilliance and improvisational freedom. He is one of the representatives of the "Chicago School".
Von Freeman was born in Chicago in 1923 into a very musical household: his father was a ragtime fan, his mother played guitar, and Louis Armstrong was a close friend of the family. He began playing the saxophone at the age of 7, and then studied at DuSable High School where he also trained on trumpet, trombone and drums.
He began his professional career in 1940 in Horace Henderson's band before doing his military service in the Navy band. On his return to Chicago, he played in the Pershing Hotel Ballroom Orchestra where he accompanied such visiting jazz greats as Charlie Parker, Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie. Von Freeman played with Sun Ra in the early 1950s. Although he had a solid reputation in the area, his fame was limited by the fact that he rarely left Chicago and recorded little.
He made his first record under his own name in 1972: Doin' It Right Now. By the end of the decade, as his son Chico Freeman became famous, Von was discovered by a slightly wider audience. After recording three albums with his son, he recorded You Talkin' To Me with young saxophonist Frank Catalano following their successful appearance at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 1999.
Von Freeman, who died of heart failure in 2012, is considered a key figure in the Chicago tenor school alongside Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin and Clifford Jordan.
Crédit photo : Michael Wilderman