Von Freeman & Ed Petersen | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Von Freeman & Ed Petersen


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Von Freeman's tenor saxophone sound is one of the glories of Chicago. His style is smartly deceptive: a first-time listener might chalk up his froggy attack, quavery tone, and tendency to lag way behind the beat to imperfect control, but he's just building suspense. Freeman, now 79, will wander so far from the pulse or key you'd think he can't possibly find his way home, only to sprint back through the thicket like a gazelle as the clock counts down to zero. He should get as much attention every year as he has in 2001: in March he finally made the cover of Down Beat, and Premonition put out his warmly received Live at the Dakota. This month the label recorded him at two local haunts: the New Apartment Lounge, where he heads the Tuesday jam session, easily one of the best jazz gigs in town; and the Green Mill, in a Saturday matinee with new star pianist and major Freeman fan Jason Moran. I counted 11 local jazz writers in the house: that's a real critics' choice. (The two will reunite for a much anticipated duo gig at the Chicago Cultural Center on January 24.) A couple times a year the Green Mill also hosts one of Freeman's "battles of the saxes," where he squares off against the homegrown Frank Catalano and/or Ed Petersen, a Chicagoan now living in New Orleans. Catalano's got the woo-hoo exuberance, but the thoughtful Petersen makes a more attentive foil. Freeman's quirks are neatly offset by Petersen's virtues: a harder tone and attack, dead-on intonation, and clipped enunciation at high speeds. (The difference is partly generational: the 49-year-old's timing is informed by jackrabbit Coltrane the way Freeman's is by laid-back Lester Young.) As usual when these two tenors square off, they bring back the loosely reined rhythm section from their 1999 recording, Von & Ed (Delmark): pianist Willie Pickens, Hal Russell's old bassist Brian Sandstrom, and that incisive commentator and arbiter of all rhythmic disputes, drummer Robert Shy. Friday, December 28, 9 PM, and Saturday, December 29, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552. Freeman will also perform on New Year's Eve at 8:30 PM at Pops for Champagne, 2934 N. Sheffield, 773-472-1000.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.

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