dimanche 19 août 2012

Von Freeman, père de Chico, vient de nous quitter à l'âge de 88 ans

Von Freeman vient de nous quitter; père de Chico Freeman qui était chez nous à Junas en  2011 pendant le festival Le Languedoc-Roussillon rencontre Chicago.
Qu'il soufflera son saxophone en paix avec ses amis!

Von Freeman, Fiery Tenor Saxophonist, Dies at 88

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Von Freeman, who was considered one of the finest tenor saxophonists in jazz but attained wide fame only late in life, died on Aug. 11 in Chicago. He was 88.
Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos
Von Freeman performing at Avery Fisher Hall in 1996.
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The cause was heart failure, his son Mark said.
Though his work won him ardent admirers, Mr. Freeman, familiarly known as Vonski, was for decades largely unknown outside Chicago, where he was born and reared and spent most of his life.
As The Chicago Tribune wrote in 1998, his playing “represents a standard by which other tenor saxophonists must be judged.”
Last year, Mr. Freeman was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, the nation’s highest honor in the field.
Not until the 1980s did he begin performing more often on famous out-of-town stages, including Alice Tully Hall and the Village Vanguard in New York. Earlier in his career Mr. Freeman had made much of his living, as he told The Tribune, playing for “strip joints, taxi dances, vaudeville shows, comedians, jugglers, weddings, bar mitzvahs, jazz clubs, dives, Polish dances, Jewish dances, every nationality.”
If he never got his big break as a young player, Mr. Freeman said, then that was because he never especially sought one.
“I’m not trying to brag or nothing, but I always knew I could play, 50, 60 years ago,” he told The Tribune in 2002. “I really don’t play any different than the way I played then. And I never let it worry me that I didn’t get anywhere famewise, or I didn’t make hit records.”
What he preferred to chasing fame, he said, was playing jazz as he felt it demanded to be played. The result, critics agreed, was music — often dazzling, occasionally bewildering — that sounded like no one else’s.
Mr. Freeman’s playing was characterized by emotional fire (he was so intense he once bit his mouthpiece clean off); a huge sound (this, he said, took root in strip clubs where the band played from behind a curtain); and singular musical ideas.
His work had a daring elasticity, with deliberately off-kilter phrasing that made it sound like speech. He cherished roughness and imperfection, although, as critics observed, he could play a ballad with the best of them.
Where some listeners faulted him for playing out of tune, others praised him for exploiting a chromatic range far greater than the paltry 12 notes the Western musical scale offers.
“Don’t tune up too much, baby,” Mr. Freeman once told a colleague. “You’ll lose your soul.”
His masterly tonal control let him summon unlovely sounds whenever he chose to, and he chose to often. His timbre has been called wheezing, honking, rasping and, in the words of Robert Palmer of The New York Times in 1982, a “billy goat tone” — a description that, as context makes clear, was not uncomplimentary.
Earl LaVon Freeman was born in Chicago on Oct. 3, 1923. (His given name was occasionally spelled Earle.)
His father was a city policeman — a highly unusual job for a black man then — whose beat included the Grand Terrace Ballroom, a storied nightclub. There, Von soaked up the music of Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Earl Hines and other titans of the age.
Young Von pined for a horn, and as luck would have it there was one in the house. The fact that it was attached to his father’s Victrola did not deter him, and one day when he was about 7, he pried it off, drilled holes in it and began to blow.
Deplorable sounds ensued, and his father overheard. “He picked me up, just kind of shook me, then hardly spoke to me for about a year,” Mr. Freeman later told Down Beat magazine. But if only as a deterrent, his father bought him a saxophone.
By 12, Von was playing professionally in Chicago nightclubs, reporting for work armed with a note from his mother. It read, “Don’t let him drink, don’t let him smoke, don’t let him consort with those women, and make him stay in that dressing room.”
He graduated from DuSable High School, a public school famous for its jazz program (other alumni include Nat King Cole and Dinah Washington), and entered the Navy, playing in its jazz band.
After his discharge, Mr. Freeman resumed his career, sitting in with some of the finest musicians to appear in Chicago, including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.
He was often invited to join them on the road, but he turned most offers down. He was disinclined to leave home: besides his wife and four children, he had his mother to look after. She had been widowed since Von was a young man, when his father was shot and killed in the line of duty.
In later years, Mr. Freeman played at jazz festivals throughout the United States and Europe. But despite his newfound fame, till nearly the end of his life held court each Tuesday night at the New Apartment Lounge, a small Chicago club where he had performed since the early 1980s. “Vonski’s Night School,” musicians called his sessions there, and young players came from around the world for the chance to sit in with him.
Mr. Freeman’s marriage to Ruby Hayes ended in divorce. Besides his son Mark, he is survived by another son, Chico, a prominent tenor saxophonist, and a brother, George, a jazz guitarist. Two daughters, Denise Jarrett and Brenda Jackson, died before him, as did another brother, Eldridge (known as Bruz), a drummer.
His recordings include “Doin’ It Right Now,” (1972), “Young and Foolish” (1977), “The Great Divide” (2004), “Vonski Speaks” (2009) and, with Chico, “Freeman & Freeman” (1981).
Though Mr. Freeman had not looked for it, renown, when it came, was a vindication.
“A lot of people who didn’t pay a lot of attention to me or to my music started coming around when I was heading to my 80th birthday,” he told The Tribune in 2002. “Now they were saying, ‘Well, Vonski, you’re all right after all.’ ”

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Von Freeman
Von Freeman performs at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park in 2006. (Tribune photo 2006 / August13, 2012)
Von Freeman recorded too infrequently for an artist of his stature, but his slender discography nonetheless sheds light on one of the most influential jazz men Chicago has produced:

“Doin' It Right Now” (Atlantic, 1972). Freeman's belated debut as leader was produced by Rahsaan Roland Kirk and captures the piquant quality of his tenor work.

“Have No Fear” (Nessa, 1975). Chuck Nessa, a visionary producer of Chicago artists, documents Freeman in a bluesy mood.

“Serenade and Blues” (Nessa, 1975). The saxophonist offers expansive balladry and original tunes.

“Fathers and Sons” (Columbia, 1982). Freeman enjoys a rare moment on a national record label, in a recording that features the Freeman and Marsalis families.

“Walkin' Tuff” (Southport, 1989). Freeman partners with Chicago sidemen on mostly jazz standards.

“Von & Ed” (Delmark, 1999). Former Chicago tenor man Ed Petersen faces off with Freeman, the two revisiting their tenor “battles” at the Green Mill.

“You Talkin' To Me?!” (Delmark, 2000). Chicago tenor phenom Frank Catalano duets with his mentor.

“The Improvisor” (Premonition, 2002). One of the best recordings of 2002, “The Improviser” captures the mercurial brilliance of Freeman's solos.

“The Great Divide” (Premonition, 2004). Romantic balladry and 21st century experimentation converge.

“Vonski Speaks” (Nessa, 2009). Recorded at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 2002, “Vonski Speaks” attests to the high standards of his late-in-life work.

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