Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b Earle Lavon Freeman, 3 October 1923, Chicago IL; d there 13 August 2012) Tenor sax, composer, leader; a giant of the instrument, to be mentioned in the same breath with Dexter Gordon, Lockjaw Davis, or any other you care to name. He attended DuSable High School with Bennie Green and Gene Ammons; studied there under Capt. Walter Dyett. His brothers were also musicians, George (guitarist), Bruz (Eldridge, drummer, d c.28 March 2006, Hawaii, aged 85). He played with Horace Henderson '40, then in a U.S. Navy band. He formed a band with his brothers '46, with David Shipp on bass (d '82). As the house band at the Pershing Room they backed Bird, Dizzy, Roy Eldridge, everybody. Andrew Hill was in the band '51; Von recorded with Hill '52 on the obscure Ping label with Hill on organ, Pat Patrick on baritone, Malachi Favors on bass, drummer Wilbur Campbell (d 30 December 1999). He played with Dexter Gordon in Chicago '70, etc. Von played on George Freeman's LPs Birth Sign '69 on Delmark and New Improved Funk c.'76 on People (reissued on LRC CD as All In The Game; George also made Man And Woman c.'74 on Groove Merchant).
He and Fred Anderson, another Chicago legend, agreed that the way to keep living was to keep playing. Chicago celebrated Von's 75th birthday by naming a street after him. Von Freeman's 75th Birthday Celebration on Half Note Records was recorded in April '98 at the Blue Note Jazz Club in NYC with Chico's quartet. He recorded for Premonition: Live At The Dakota 2001 was made in Minnesota with locals Bobby Peterson on piano, Terry Burns on bass and Phil Hey on drums; The Improvisor was one of his best later CDs, made in Chicago clubs in late 2001 and early 2002: four quintet tracks, a quartet track, a duet with pianist Jason Moran, and a magnificent solo track, 'If I Should Lose You'. The Great Divide '04 and Good Forever '06 had Richard Wyands on piano, John Webber on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums. The Best of Von Freeman on Premonition '08 had two CDs of tracks from all four of these plus a souvenir DVD of interviews, and the ceremony of the street-naming.
In 2002 Von had appeared at the Jazzfest Berlin with his New Apartment Lounge Quartet (longtime drummer Michael Raynor, Jack Zara on bass, Mike Allemana on guitar). Recorded a few weeks after his 80th birthday, it was a blistering set, as good as anything he had ever done. The festival organizers had seen to it that the recordings belonged to the artists, Sender Freies Berlin provided Chuck Nessa with the master tape, and Vonski Speaks came out in late 2009, the first new Nessa release in years, and one of the most delightful releases of that or any other year.