Von Freeman: Portrait of John Young


Portrait of John Young


Von Freeman (tenor sax)


Doin' It Right Now (Koch Jazz 8536)

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Von Freeman (tenor sax), John Young (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums).

Composed by Von Freeman


Recorded: New York, 1972


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

Like father, like son? Not so in this case. Von Freeman's son, Chico, began recording regularly at age 27, but Von's first date as a leader didn't come until he reached 50, and even then only through the influence at Atlantic Records of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who also produced Doin' It Right Now. Freeman's playing here and on two Nessa releases to follow, Have No Fear and Serenade & Blues, secured the reputation of this legendary Chicago tenorman. For some, Freeman was an acquired taste. His wavering tone, especially on ballads, could lead one to conclude that he was out of tune or simply unpolished. However, once you accepted his idiosyncrasies and listened closely, his inventiveness and depth of expression could easily sweep you away.

Another local Chicago legend, pianist John Young, was on hand for this date, and Freeman unselfishly acknowledged him by recording "Portrait of John Young." The theme sounds almost like something out of Fiddler on the Roof, especially in the deliberate and yearning way Freeman initially approaches it. But as soon as he launches his solo, we enter the land of invigorating hard bop. With his swift, tumbling lines, punched-out notes and phrases, and fervent wailing inflections, his playing possesses a constant and quite compelling momentum and edge. Another Chicago tenor, Johnny Griffin, is brought to mind. Young follows with glistening runs and an attractive bell-like tone, his strong left-hand accents enhancing and complementing his relentless attack. Freeman returns with more heated expressions before revisiting the theme, this time at a more insistent up-tempo, which changes its character entirely.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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