Chicago electric guitarist George Freeman was a quintessential sideman when backing bands led by Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Gene Ammons, and Shirley Scott. This is his debut recording, done in the height of the soul-jazz era circa 1969, featuring his famed brother Von Freeman on tenor sax for four tracks, drummer Billy Mitchell throughout, and either Sonny Burke or Robert Pierce on the Hammond B-3 organ. At times Freeman's sound traces to no single individual source, though it is steeped in Chi-Town blues and a progressive stance that is apart from the Wes Montgomery/George Benson school of the day.
The first of two Chico Freeman recordings for the soon-defunct Black-Hawk label finds the leader switching between tenor, alto, sopranino, soprano, bass clarinet, bass flute and C flute. John Purcell "only" limits himself to five reeds (alto, baritone, oboe, alto flute and piccolo), and the horns are joined by either Kenny Kirkland or Mark Thompson on piano, bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Elvin Jones. The many combinations of reeds highlight this set, which has originals by Freeman, Mark Thompson ("Monk 2000"), John Stubblefield, Alex North and Cecil McBee ("Blues on the Bottom"), in addition to the standard "Softly As In a Morning Sunrise." The style ranges from straight-ahead to more exploratory sounds, and this colorful album is worth searching for.
Chico Freeman (tripling on this album on tenor, soprano and bass clarinet) made many records from 1977-84, and all are worth picking up by fans of adventurous jazz. Freeman's warm tone and knowledge of more traditional areas of jazz make even his more abstract flights seem fairly accessible. Joined by vibraphonist Jay Hoggard, bassist Rick Rozie and drummer Don Moye on this somewhat obscure effort, Freeman stretches out on lengthy renditions of his originals "No Time Left," "Uhmla," and a briefer "Circle."