Von Freeman

You Talkin' to Me?!

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Von Freeman's supporters have often wondered why the veteran tenor man isn't better known. Over the years, his small but devoted group of followers have been insisting that he is among jazz's unsung heroes, and they're right. Nonetheless, the very thing that they so admire about Freeman -- his uniqueness -- is the thing that has held him back commercially. Freeman's interesting, unusual tone owes a debt to jazz's avant-garde, but he's far from an atonal free-form player. The Chicagoan's stomping ground is hard bop and post-bop, and his followers expect him to favor Charlie Parker standards and complex chord changes over atonal chaos. Freeman's uniqueness is especially apparent on You Talkin' to Me?!, a 1999 date that he co-leads with fellow Chicago tenor player Frank Catalano (who is young enough to be his grandson). Hearing Freeman and Catalano side by side, one is reminded of how distinctive Freeman is because his solos are so easy to pick out. On some two-tenor sessions, it can be hard to tell the saxmen apart. But that's never a problem on this release; whether Freeman is tackling Gershwin's "Summertime," Jobim's "Wave," or Tadd Dameron's clever "Good Bait," his playing is easily recognizable. And Catalano is no clone artist either; even though he falls short of innovative, Catalano isn't one of those faceless "Young Lions" who tries to sound exactly like Sonny Rollins or Wayne Shorter. Catalano obviously admires Freeman's uniqueness, and the Chicagoans (who are joined by pianist Larry Novak, bassist Larry Kohut, and drummer Joel Spencer) enjoy a consistently strong rapport on this excellent CD.

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