A talented tenor and soprano saxophonist with a versatile post-bop style, Chico Freeman (b. 1949) is the son of veteran tenorman Von Freeman. He started on trumpet and played trumpet throughout his youth. Freeman did not switch to tenor until he was a junior in college but he developed quickly. After graduating from Northwestern University, he worked with r&b groups and joined the AACM. Freeman made his recording debut in 1976 and the following year moved to New York. He picked up a great deal of valuable experience during the next few years, working with Elvin Jones, Sun Ra, the Sam Rivers big band, Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition, and Don Pullen.
Freeman also recorded frequently as a leader, including three sets for Contemporary. 1977’s Beyond the Rain has Freeman (heard on tenor and flute) performing originals and "My One and Only Love” in a group that includes pianist Hilton Ruiz and drummer Elvin Jones. Peaceful Heart, Gentle Spirit from 1980 has Freeman switching between tenor, soprano, flute, alto flute, clarinet, and bass clarinet. Teamed with flutist James Newton, pianist Kenny Kirkland, vibraphonist Jay Hoggard, cello, bass, drums and two percussionists, Freeman creates a particularly colorful set filled with his fresh melodies and high-quality improvising. Destiny’s Dance from 1981 matches Freeman with 20-year-old Wynton Marsalis (who is on four of the six selections) and a rhythm section that includes vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson. The music falls between hard bop and the avant-garde, an area in which Freeman always excels.
A member of The Leaders in the mid-1980s, Chico Freeman has led several eclectic groups in the years since, consistently performing music that is both challenging and logical.