NEA Statement on the Death of NEA Jazz Master Von Freeman
NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman's Statement on the Death of NEA Jazz Master Von Freeman
“On behalf of the National Endowment for the Arts, it is with great sadness that I acknowledge the passing of 2012 NEA Jazz Master Von Freeman. An extraordinary saxophonist with a sound all his own, Von Freeman's contributions to jazz – and specifically Chicago's jazz history – are numerous. We join many others in the jazz community and beyond in mourning his death while celebrating his life and his music.”
Born in Chicago on October 3, 1922, 2012 NEA Jazz Master Earle Lavon Von" Freeman, Sr. is considered a founder of the Chicago School" of jazz tenorists, a distinction shared with Gene Ammons
. With his individual sound, at once husky and melodic, he makes every song his own.
Freeman was surrounded by music in his childhood: his mother sang in the church choir, his father played jazz albums on an early Victrola - on which Freeman first heard the tenor sax - and his maternal grandfather and uncle were guitarists. Initially self-taught, he played saxophone at DuSable High School, landing his first gig with Horace Henderson
's Orchestra at the age of 16. Drafted during WWII, he performed with a Navy band while in service. Once back in Chicago, he played with his brothers George (guitar) and Eldridge Bruz" (drums) in the house band at the Pershing Hotel Ballroom, where jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker
. Freeman had a regular Tuesday night set and jam session at the New Apartment Lounge on Chicago's South Side, which was often attended by jazz luminaries, and in recent years, he received acclaim in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands.
In June 2010, the University of Chicago awarded Freeman the Rosenberger Medal to recognize achievement through research, in authorship, in invention, for discovery, for unusual public service or for anything deemed to be on great benefit to humanity."