Chico Freeman Quintet

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Focus Review

by Alex Henderson

Chico Freeman was 44 when he recorded Focus, a strictly inside post-bop/hard bop date that seems fairly conservative when played alongside some of his more adventurous and daring recordings of the 1970s. Back then, the tenor saxman was considered cutting-edge, but Focus was hardly among 1994's more cutting-edge jazz recordings. This isn't to say that the session isn't enjoyable -- in fact, Von Freeman's son is in good form on two Thelonious Monk standards ("Bemsha Swing" and "Rhythm-a-Ning") as well as Cecil McBee's "Peacemaker" and Don Pullen's "Ah, George, We Hardly Knew Ya." And Freeman is downright compelling on "To Hear a Tear, Drop in the Rain," a melancholy ballad he wrote after a friend's murder. Throughout the session, Freeman forms an appealing two-sax front line with alto man Arthur Blythe, and he has a solid rhythm section in pianist George Cables, bassist Santi Debriano and drummer Yoron Israel. Focus didn't go down in history as one of Freeman's essential works, but it's a generally decent and occasionally excellent CD that he can be proud of.

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