Chico Freeman
Photo: Alan Nahigian


Chico Freeman..... the multi-reedman, keyboard artist, composer and producer embodies the intent of jazz by finding new avenues of expression that embrace the heritage and tradition of the music. He has been compared to the greats in jazz history by many critics, but the proof, beyond arguable opinion, is in the fact that he has played and recorded with some of the most innovative musicians in the world. Few artists can equal his list of musical associations: Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Charles Mingus, Jack DeJohnette, Art Blakey, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Hank Jones, Freddie Cole, Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson, Roy Haynes, Von Freeman, Arthur Blythe, Billy Hart, Lester Bowie, Famadou Don Moye, Cecil McBee, Kirk Lightsey, John Hicks, Mal Waldron, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Eurythmics, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and many others. From South America to Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic, Freeman has performed and recorded with such Latin greats as Tito Puente, Machito, Irakere, Arturo Sandoval, Celia Cruz, Giovanni Hidalgo, Paulinho DaCosta, Nana Vasconcelos, Ray Barretto, Eddie Palmieri and Puerto Rico's famous El Gran Combo.

Born into a musical family, his father Von Freeman is the legendary tenor saxophone player, and his uncles George and Bruz play guitar and drums respectively. Freeman earned a mathematics scholarship to Northwestern University, and played trumpet in the school jazz band. He quickly learned that his heart was elsewhere, and eventually studied the tenor saxophone 8 to 10 hours a day until confident enough to challenge the sax section. He switched to a music major, and a great tenor player was born. He graduated with a degree in music with proficiencies in saxophone, trumpet, and piano.

Following studies in advanced composition and theory, he began teaching elementary and intermediate courses at the Chicago-based AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) School of Music. While completing a Masters Degree in Composition and Theory at Governors State University, his memorable performance at the Intercollegiate Jazz Festival in South Bend, Indiana, with the Governors State's Jazz Band won Freeman awards as "Best Soloist", "Best Saxophonist", and a tour of Brazil with the winning group.

Although jazz was the first music Freeman was exposed to, many of his early professional gigs were at Chicago clubs with such blues artists as Memphis Slim, and Lucky Carmichael. Freeman went on to play with pop and R & B greats The Temptations, The Four Tops, Jackie Wilson, The Dells, The Isley Brothers, and The Eurythmics.

After arriving in New York in the 70's, he immediately began working with Jeanne Lee, Mickey Bass, John Stubblefield, and Cecil McBee. Through apprenticeships in New York and abroad with such innovators as Elvin Jones, Don Pullen, Sam Rivers, Sun Ra, and Jack DeJohnette, Freeman developed his own group and rapidly rose to prominence with his energetic and exploratory style.

A legendary concert at Lincoln Center in June 1982, by The Young Lions, a group critics hailed as the brightest hopes of jazz in the 1980's - Chico Freeman, Wynton Marsalis, Paquito D'Rivera, Kevin Eubanks, Anthony Davis, and others - produced an album on which Freeman plays nearly every cut. His 14-minute composition "Whatever Happened To The Dream Deferred?" was called "one of the best of the album" by the New York Times.