Chicago-style jazz is bold and innovative. Nobody represents that better than the legendary tenor sax player Von Freeman, known to his many friends, fans and fellow musicians as "Vonski." Back in the '40s, he shared the stage with such jazz luminaries as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie when they performed in Chicago. Unlike some of his contemporaries Freeman was not lured to New York to be part of the burgeoning be-bop scene. He remained loyal to his home-town roots and became the originator of the Chicago style of playing jazz on the tenor sax.
The other thing he’s most famous for is mentoring hundreds of young musicians trying to learn the finer points of playing this music, holding court in the form of impromptu jam sessions at The New Apartment Lounge on Chicago’s South Side for over 30 years. One of the grateful graduates of that school is Grammy Award-winning vocalist, Kurt Elling.
While the Chicago jazz community marveled at Freeman’s extraordinary talent, national recognition mostly eluded him - until now. In June, the National Endowment for the Arts announced that Freeman would receive the nation’s highest honor in jazz: The 2012 NEA Jazz Masters Award.
At almost 90 years old, he can still light it up. His tremendous impact on Chicago jazz will be celebrated with a tribute at Millenium Park on Thursday evening, July 28,at 6:30 p.m. to kick-off for the Made In Chicago World Class Jazz Concert Series, presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. The tribute will feature an all-star lineup performing some of Freeman’s original music. The celebration of a true original: Von Freeman!