Von Freeman | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Von Freeman


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Twenty years ago this month the Reader published a cover story on tenor saxist Von Freeman, who at the time remained something of a south-side secret despite his startlingly original and exuberant style. A few things have changed: Freeman, who had just issued his first album (after three decades of performing), has since released or appeared on nearly a dozen more, performed on all sides of Chicago, taken his act to New York and even more frequently to Europe, and made the outlanders aware of his place in the rich tenor lore of this city. And a few things have not changed, such as his unconventional, hyperexpressive tone and his prodigal approach to improvisation. (In his solos he practically squanders an endless assortment of melody bits, building interest with their torrential flow rather than a few carefully developed motifs.) He hasn't changed his adherence to such Chi-sax hallmarks as a powerful sound and a grit-and-gravel concept of swing. And he hasn't changed the extraordinary personality that keeps him active as well as charismatic at 71, and which finds him beaming his kilowatt smile as he flashes an OK sign to the crowd after almost every mind-altering solo. In Von's case, it isn't hubris; he's simply ahead of the audience's own inevitable reaction. Saturday, 10 PM, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232.

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