Tenor legend Von Freeman rarely plays outside his native Chicago, but this belated release documents a two-night stay in St. Paul, MN, in the spring of 1996. The septuagenarian is in tiptop shape, joined by a superb local trio: pianist Bobby Peterson, bassist Terry Burns, and drummer Phil Hey. Like the younger Johnny Griffin, Freeman is an endurance player, as the opening, 12-plus minute "Bye Bye Blackbird" attests. (Listen for Peterson's quote of "Two Bass Hit.") And like the younger James Moody, Freeman is an entertainer and a charmer, taking every opportunity to address the audience. His playing can get pretty far out, as on Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" and even Duke Ellington's "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me." Indeed, part of his uniqueness lies in the way he incorporates certain expressive elements of the avant-garde, despite his unshakable foundation in bebop and the blues. This comes through whether he's playing ballads ("Crazy She Calls Me"), all-out swing ("Caravan"), or unaccompanied ("My Little Brown Book").
AllMusic Review by David R. Adler