Tenor saxophonist Von Freeman has long been a jazz legend in Chicago, much as sax man Buck Hill has been in Washington. His son, Chico Freeman, also a tenor saxophonist, is one of the strongest young voices to come out of Chicago's progressive jazz renaissance. Chico Freeman's growing international reputation has lured his father out of the Windy City, and Von Freeman finally made his Washington debut last night when he joined his son at Charlie's. Papa Freeman proved a revelation; his breathy tone, sinuous transitions and inventive instincts all marked him as an overlooked major talent.
The 31-year-old Chico Freeman began the evening with his usual quintet, a collection of talented but still unpolished players anchored by the superb veteran bassist Cecil McBee. "Illas" recalled the tribal spiritualism of Pharaoh Sanders, and "Free Association" was a lively new jazz number with everyone given a chance to let go in solo and ensemble settings. Then 58-year-old Von Freeman took the stage to play with the rhythm section. Yet it was his unaccompanied solo on "I Remember You" that dazzled the listener with its endless elaborations on the melody. Finally, father and son joined for an energetic version of Charlie Parker's "Anthropology" that bridged generations and styles. Von Freeman and the Chico Freeman Quintet will be at Charlie's through Sunday.