Courtesy of Von Freeman


FRED JUNG: Let's start from the beginning.

VON FREEMAN: It was just a natural thing. My father, in particular, he loved jazz music. He always had the latest Louis Armstrong. We had this Victrola and so he played it. After, I really got into this music. Before I knew what was happening, I just loved that joyous sound. I was very, very young, three, four, five years old. I always loved the saxophone. It was just natural that I got into it, Fred. My mother, she was a guitarist in church and she was always hammering out these church rhythms. And my father, he played this piano I'm looking at now.

FJ: You kept the piano from your childhood?

VON FREEMAN: Oh, yes. I'm looking at it now. Yeah, it's still here. It's in pretty bad shape, I hate to say. I should take better care of it. He's been gone since '49. I think I've had it tuned three times since that time. So it is in pretty bad shape.

FJ: Since we last spoke, the city of Chicago has named a street in your honor.

VON FREEMAN: Oh, that was gorgeous. That was such a beautiful thing. The jazz society here in Chicago, they were a big part of that along with the city. They made this happen.

FJ: Is it a Street, Avenue, or Boulevard?

VON FREEMAN: They call it Von Freeman Way. It's a block in which the club is (New Apartment Lounge).

FJ: You have had a residency at the New Apartment Lounge for as long as I can remember.

VON FREEMAN: It's where I've been for the last twenty-three years, the New Apartment Lounge. It is just one night, Tuesday night. When I went in there, I went in there because the lady that was booking the club, the fella she had booked decided to take off that night and she called me and I said I would cover. She told me that it would just be for one night and I went in and she asked me for one more week and I made it one more week and I said that I would stay another week. I've been there all this time.

FJ: And The Improvisor, was a partially recorded live at the New Apartment Lounge. The record was critically recognized.

VON FREEMAN: It was three or four tunes from the Apartment. You know, Fred, I've been going through some things because I recently lost my second daughter. And so I've been going through some changes this year and I haven't been able to keep up and been busy recording this new album, The Great Divide.

FJ: A father having to bear the loss of his children is unimaginable heartache.

VON FREEMAN: That set me back a little bit, Fred. It hit me very hard. Oh, man, I will tell you, it is something else. And I had gone through it five years ago with my youngest daughter, the younger one of the two. I went through it when she had passed. But you know, Fred, this happens. Everybody has to deal with the passing of a loved one and it sets them back temporarily. This has been a pretty big year for me because I gained recognition at Northwestern. They gave me an honorary degree back in June. It's been a big year for me.

FJ: Your latest Premonition record, The Great Divide, features the legendary Jimmy Cobb.

VON FREEMAN: I love him. He is one of those people that knows how to put that rhythm in the pocket and keep it there. That's really important to me nowadays because no matter how tricky you may play on the instrument, you really need a good foundation behind you. You really need that, at least I do. I play in and out of tempo a whole lot while I am soloing and so you have to know the drummers to get. He is on my first recording way back. I can't think of the name of that album.

FJ: Doin' It Right Now (Atlantic/Koch).

VON FREEMAN: Yes, yes, my goodness. Since my daughter, my memory. I was just thinking that it was almost like a miracle that he ended up on this album as leader of the group. His trio is who I am actually playing with. It is a funny thing. The bass player used to be with me back in Chicago and then he went to New York and I lost contact with him. So this kind of fell really nice, just like it was planned or something and it really wasn't.

FJ: You just celebrated your eighty-first birthday and Cobb is no spring chicken. Should I ask Santa for a tour?

VON FREEMAN: Well, you know, Fred, he and I haven't had a chance to talk since I was in the studio in New York. He's very popular now and he's doing so well with his trio. He's been doing some things with a saxophone player in his group, but he didn't tell me who.

FJ: Eric Alexander.

VON FREEMAN: Eric is with him. Oh, that is great. Eric used to be around here with me.

FJ: The circle of life.

VON FREEMAN: I'm telling you, Fred. It really is.

FJ: And the future?

VON FREEMAN: I'm doing some writing now. I had really stopped writing temporarily. I just wasn't hearing nothing. I was going through some changes with the passing of persons and I had been kind of stalled temporarily and trying to rearrange a few things.

FJ: Eighty-one years young. We should all be so fortunate if you gave us eighty-one more.

VON FREEMAN: Thank you. I wish you and the readers happy holidays.

Fred Jung is the Editor-In-Chief and is Wang Chunging tonight. Comments? Email Him