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about

George Freeman is “one of the truly original and creative guitarists in jazz today,” Dan Morganstern, Downbeat magazine, 1971.

"Freeman stands as a Chicago treasure.” Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune 2017

“(Von Freeman’s) band gets its distinctive tang from another well-kept secret, guitarist Michael Allemana, whose fleet, Kansas City blues-inflected playing and sleek chords make bebop picking sound new again.”
-Kevin Whitehead, Downbeat

___

George Freeman started his playing career in Chicago in 1940s, playing at famous South Side spots such as the Regal Theater and the Pershing Ballroom, being one the first guitarists to take up the new bebop style of Charlie Parker. He was part of the house band at the Pershing with his brothers saxophonist Von and drummer Bruz. During this time he performed with luminaries such as Billie Holiday Lester Young, and even his hero Charlie Parker, one night of which was recorded in 1950. Freeman was also one of the first guitarists to play in Hammond organ groups, performing with Baby Face Willette, Wild Bill Davis, and then a more than 20 year tenure with organist Groove Holmes. In 1959 he went on the road with soul singer Jackie Wilson. Then in 1969 he joined Gene Ammons’s group, performing around North America and recorded with Ammons (and sometimes Sonny Stitt), until Ammons’s untimely death in 1974. He then returned to Chicago for good, playing in local clubs, recording his own albums, and performing with his brother Von.

Mike Allemana met Von Freeman in 1990 at his famous set at the New Apartment Lounge. Allemana became enthralled with Von’s musical approach and started attending the session every week. At this same time, Mike met George at his set on Wednesdays at the Leather Lounge. In 1995, Von started to hire Allemana as a sideman and then hired him as a permanent member of his New Apartment Lounge band in 1997, in which Allemana played until the club closed in 2011. During this time, Allemana toured with Von to Minneapolis, to Philadelphia to perform with Mickey Roker, and to Berlin, Germany, and recorded on Freeman’s 2002 release The Improvisor on Premonition Records, and 2009 release Vonski Speaks on Nessa Records.

After Von’s passing in August 2012, Allemana applied to and was accepted into the ethnomusicology program at the University of Chicago with the goal of doing research project on Von Freeman’s music and his affect on jazz musicians and fans from Chicago and other parts of the world. Knowing Allemana was going to start work on this project, drummer Mike Reed, who was just starting his new jazz club, Constellation, called Allemana in the summer of 2013 with an idea: why not have Von Freeman’s long time guitarist start a band with Von Freeman’s guitarist brother? Reed thought that not only could it be an intriguing musical collaboration, but possibly could be productive toward Allemana’s research. Allemana called organist Pete Benson (organist for Sabertooth) and drummer Mike Schlick and Reed hired the band for a month of Thursdays in August of 2013. During this time the crowds went from zero to a packed house, in no small part due to the support of the Chicago Tribune’s jazz critic Howard Reich. Thus began the George Freeman/Mike Allemana Organ Quartet.

With the initial success of the group, Allemana and Freeman started to rehearse together almost every week. In October of 2013, they were conversing about the great drummers Freeman has worked with and he mentioned the drumming legend Bernard Purdie. Freeman and Purdie had recorded and played gigs together in the 1970s. Freeman told Allemana, “Purdie has that fat beat. What I wouldn’t give to play with that beat again.” On a whim, Allemana searched for Purdie’s website and sent him an email asking if he’d like to perform with the band at the Green Mill in Chicago. A few weeks later on Thanksgiving Day, Purdie called Allemana to accept the invitation. Quite excited to have spoken with this musical legend, Allemana booked the date with the Green Mill’s owner, Dave Jemilo. In April of 2014, an annual tradition began: the George Freeman/Mike Allemana Organ Quartet with Bernard Purdie and organist Pete Benson celebrating George Freeman’s April 10th birthday. After forty years of not performing together, Freeman and Purdie renewed their musical relationship with force.

The second year of this annual show (2015) is this album. Each song is an original by George, who at 90 years old is still composing new tunes. The energy is strong, Bernard plays hard, providing his signature grooves, and Freeman lets loose with blistering solos. Allemana plays flowing lines and Benson provides perfect accompaniment and plays swinging solos. Recorded in Chicago's famous Green Mill Jazz Club with a live and excited audience, these two guitarists, George Freeman and Mike Allemana, coming together through their musical and personal connections to Von Freeman, along with the invaluable contributions of Bernard Purdie and Pete Benson, bring forth a stunning moment in Chicago jazz history.

credits

released August 18, 2017

Folks:

George Freeman, guitar/compositions
Mike Allemana, guitar
Pete Benson, organ
Bernard Purdie, drums

Joanie Pallato, vocals on “Home Grown Tomatoes”

Record live at The Green Mill, Chicago, by David Zuchowski
Mixed and mastered by Brian Schwab, Chicago

Releases on indie label, ears&eyes Records:

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Mike Allemana Chicago, Illinois

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