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Brad Goode/Von Freeman: Inside Chicago Volume 1

Trumpeter Brad Goode is one of those smart fellows who records a lot of his own gigs, and the result is that he is now sitting on a big pile of tapes that demonstrate the health and vitality of the straightahead scene in Chicago. SteepleChase has issued two volumes of music recorded in February of 1995 with the promise of more to come. The main attraction here is the intriguing work of tenorman Von Freeman, who has in recent times started to get some long-overdue attention.

It’s disappointing to read two usually outstanding liner-note writers like Mark Gardner and Harvey Pekar trying to make a case that Freeman was the first free tenor player by dint of the fact that he influenced John Gilmore, who influenced Coltrane. Of course, we would also have to accept Frank Kofsky’s view that all the other free tenor players came from Trane. Come on, guys! Can’t we just say that the fascinating side trips that Freeman takes away from the established harmonic field are his own conception, and not the result of listening to players who recorded extensively earlier than he did? After all, there is little of this specific aspect that one can trace directly from one player to another, and Coltrane’s influence on Gilmore is far more obvious than anything going the other direction. The way that Freeman’s playing almost goes out reminds me more of late Archie Shepp, or perhaps early Bill Barron, but the more carefully one listens, the more one realizes how completely Freeman is his own man. Ditto his protege, Goode, who seems to have developed his own approach, inspired by the saxophonist but not directly derivative.

The most impressive thing about Freeman, perhaps, is his ability to keep coming up with new ideas for chorus after chorus. His maverick approach to harmony is also noteworthy, and helps keeps such familiar fare as “Yardbird Suite,” “Oleo” and “Caravan” interesting. The sound quality is acceptable, but it takes focused attention to realize how well the rhythm team of pianist Joan Hickey, bassist Sherman Davis and drummer Michael Raynor work, individually and collectively. First impressions of these recordings may be on the order of “just another extended jam,” but when you really listen, you get a different message.

Originally Published