Chico Freeman’s father was an important and impressive Chicago-based saxophonist even before he cut his first Rahsaan Roland Kirk-produced disc in 1972, at the age of 49. A founding member of Sun Ra’s Arkestra, he worked with Horace Henderson in the 1940s and has recorded with Dexter Gordon, among others. Ahmad Jamal and Malachi Favors gained early experience in bands led by the elder Freeman. At age 82, he sounds as convincing as ever on this tribute to Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Charlie Parker, all of whom he shared stages with in his formative years. In the liners he speaks of knowing Pres as a pitcher with the Count Basie big band when they used to play ball against the Red Saunders band. The stories are fascinating. The music is riveting.
The standout on the disc, his original "Never Fear Jazz Is Here" is straight out of the burning Bird mode and belies the player’s age. Freeman is a first rate player and doesn’t let chronology get in his way. With Jimmy Cobb’s metronomic drumming underscored by the busy bass lines of John Webber and the propulsive pianist Richard Wyands, this doesn’t let up. The following version of "This Is Always," while not quite slowed to ballad pace, showcases a more introspective side. "Chant Time" visits the envelope-pushing limits and is set up by Cobb’s brilliant drumming (and stunning solo). Wyands is captivating here, as well, though it is the saxophonist who most impresses with his flights into the stratosphere and frequent complimentary grounding. At turns gruff and growling and tender and whispery, this is the work of a superior player. His "Blue Pres" captures the understated swagger of Lester Young and is followed by Coleman Hawkins’ rollicking "Disorder On The Border," on which Wyands chases the veteran around the melody. "Hard Hittin’," which quotes "Freedom Jazz Dance" and even a lick from "Compared To What" is a hard blower that impresses. The closing "Violets For Your Furs" is beautifully rendered, emotive and testament to the passion and the chops that this veteran player brings to the session.