Chico Freeman Celebrates Return to States with New Album

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Chico Freeman will release Spoken Into Existience, his first domestic release in nearly a decade, on May 13 (Photo: Marcel Meier)

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After living and working in Europe for the last decade, saxophonist and AACM member Chico Freeman will return to the United States in May. To mark his homecoming, the former Elvin Jones collaborator will celebrate with the domestic release of a new album, Spoken Into Existence, on May 13.

On the album, Freeman is joined by his international quartet, with which he’s worked regularly since 2013 (Italian pianist Antonio Faraò, Swiss bassist Heiri Känzig and American drummer Michael Baker). The program, consisting of mostly originals, spans an array of styles, ranging from hip-hop to funk to bebop and the blues.

Released by the Viennese label Jive Music, the album also features compelling arrangements of Miles Davis’ “Seven Steps To Heaven,” as well as Stanley Turrentine’s “Soft Pedal Blues,” from the 1962 Blue Note recording That’s Where It’s At.

Freeman, who grew up in Chicago (his father was the celebrated hard-bop saxophonist Von Freeman), noted that the criteria for selecting material for his new album were demanding.

“I’ve played standards, but contrary to my father, that’s not the meat on my improvisational plate,” Freeman said. “Standards were my dad’s self-expression; they emerged from his life and environment. The standards I choose to play are ones that touch me, and they’re usually written by jazz musicians with some exceptions. Most of my work is about presenting original material.”

Upon his return to the States, Freeman will also introduce audiences to a new ensemble, The Chico Freeman Plus+tet, featuring pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Kenny Davis, drummer Nasheet Waits and percussionist Reto Weber. The group will hold its debut performance at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York on May 19.

For more information on the album, visit the Jive Music website. To read a 1974 DownBeat interview with AACM member Lester Bowie, click here.

—Brian Zimmerman