Chicago Jazz’s “Young Horses” Kick Off A Year-Long Series Honoring Von Freeman

CHICAGO, 12 JANUARY 2018 – In anticipation of its 50th anniversary in 2019, the Jazz Institute of Chicago is launching a new approach to curating its community-based free concert series JazzCity; a longstanding collaboration with the Chicago Park District that celebrated its 20th-anniversary last year. The 2018 season shifts the focus to Chicago’s legendary jazz icons, by honoring one musician throughout the year. A wide range of artists playing in varied settings will speak to and reflect that icon’s profound influence on generations of musicians and fans.


This new approach to curating the series provides an opportunity to inform people about Chicago’s historical jazz giants, to give ownership of that legacy to the communities where the concerts will be performed, and to facilitate opportunities for new artists to carry the legacy forward.


NEA Jazz Master Earle Lavon Freeman, (better known as Von Freeman or fondly called Vonski), is the first honoree. The concerts will address different aspects of Freeman’s life, a musician whose life and art spanned several decades and influenced generations of Chicago jazz players (as well as national and international artists), informing audiences about his important musical influences, his mentorship role, and how his legacy continues in Chicago’s jazz scene.


The first concert, scheduled for 7pm on February 9 at Theater on the Lake, 2401 N. Lake Shore Drive, is in part a celebration of Freeman’s legendary, long-running jam session at the New Apartment Lounge, where countless young players – he called them his “young horses” – had the rare opportunity to sit in with him. Those players, including the likes of saxophonists Steve Coleman and Eric Alexander and vocalist Kurt Elling, learned more in one evening with Vonski than they could in a year of classroom sessions.


Under the direction of saxophonist and educator Jarrard Harris, the season opener will feature two handpicked quintets. The cast of players will include tenor saxophonists Roy McGrath, whose most recent album, Remembranzas, celebrates his Puerto Rican roots; and John Foster-Brooks, a mentee of the great Ari Brown who has led the Foster Meets Brooks Big Band.


Also performing will be trumpeters Ryan Nyther and Dakarai Barclay; pianists Hana Fujisaki and Joaquin Garcia; bassists Ethan Philion and Nicholas Davis and drummers Alvin Cobb and Justin Boyd.


With tributes to beloved tenor man Eddie Harris planned for next year, and Gene “Jug” Ammons to follow, JazzCity will open a doorway to the rich history of Chicago jazz while connecting it to the city’s vibrant present and even brighter future.


2018 Jazz City Full Season Schedule
Please Note: Artists and venues may be subject to change. All concerts begin at 7pm and are family friendly and free unless otherwise noted!


February 9, 2018
Theater on the Lake, 2401 N. Lake Shore Dr.
Celebrating Von Freeman’s 95th: NextGen Jazz Summit
Under the direction of saxophonist and educator Jarrard Harris, the season opener features two handpicked quintets including tenor saxophonists Roy McGrath and John Foster-Brooks; trumpeters Ryan Nyther and Dakarai Barclay; pianists Hana Fujisaki and Joaquin Garcia; bassists Ethan Philion and Nicholas Davis and drummers Alvin Cobb and Justin Boyd.


March 9, 2018
Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 Central Park Ave.
The Ladies! Women of Chicago Jazz Festival
Produced by JIC’s Women’s Jazz Leadership Initiative (WJLI) , a group of female high school and college jazz students, the evening will feature women who were mentored by Von Freeman, including Caroline Davis, Joan Hickey, Marlene Rosenberg, Margaret Murphy-Webb and Maggie Brown.


April 13, 2018
LaFollette Park, 1333 N. Laramie Ave.
In the Beginning: Early Chicago Jazz
Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Reggie Thomas and University of Illinois at Chicago’s Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Chris Madsen explore charts by Fletcher and Horace Henderson and Fatha Hines whose music accompanied Von’s early years.


May 11, 2018
Tuley Park, 501 E. 90th Pl
Saxophonists Rajiv Halim, John Foster-Brooks and Geof Bradfield along with drummer Dana Hall, bassist Dennis Carroll, and guitarist Mike Allemana reflect upon Von Freeman’s deepest musical influences, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Charlie Parker.


June 8, 2018
Columbus Park Refectory, 5701 W. Jackson
The Sun Ra Effect
A member of jazz iconoclast’s band in the 50s, Von Freeman’s musical mind was shaped by Ra’s originality and spirit. French Horn player Vincent Chancey, a longtime member of Sun Ra’s band, returns to Chicago to lead an ensemble that focuses on charts from Sun Ra’s early period, with Robert Irving, III on piano.


July 13-16, 2018
Humboldt Park Boathouse, 1359 N. Sacramento and Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand
12th Annual Latin Jazz Festival
Expanded to three days through a partnership with Navy Pier the festival takes place for two days at Humboldt Park and one afternoon at the Pier.


October 12, 2018
Sherman Park, 1301 W. 52nd St
Family Ties
Von Freeman’s son, world-renowned saxophonist Chico Freeman and guitarist brother George Freeman illustrate how the family’s musical voice and traditions are directly connected and carried forward into the future.


Nov 9, 2018
Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72nd St
The University of Von Freeman: The New Apartment Jam
The jam sessions that drew thousands over the 30 years Von Freeman presided had a huge impact on developing young artists over two generations. This recreation will include trumpeter Brad Goode and other veterans of the New Apartment Jam with young area college and high school students.


Dec 14, 2018
South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr.
Guitarist Mike Allemana worked with Von Freeman for 20 years and has orchestrated some of his compositions for a large ensemble as well as composing his own homage to the Master that includes his impressions of Von’s personality humanity, and musicality. The ensemble will feature musicians that have been touched by Von including Greg Ward, Victor Garcia, Matt Ferguson and Michael Raynor.


About JazzCity

JazzCity is a free concert series initiated in 1997 by the Jazz Institute in collaboration with the Chicago Park District, now in its 21st season of bringing people together from across the city to listen to Chicago’s top jazz musicians. JazzCity is sponsored by WDCB 90.9 FM and WHPK 88.5 FM Radio and supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information visit or call 312.427.1676.


About the Jazz Institute of Chicago

Founded in 1969, the Jazz Institute of Chicago promotes and nurtures jazz in Chicago by providing jazz education, developing and supporting musicians, building audiences and fostering a thriving jazz scene. For more information on our programs, visit

  • Related

  • See All Jazz In Chicago Posts

    Become a Member

    By joining the Jazz Institute of Chicago, you help support the music you love



    Be in the know! Sign up for our email list.


    We Need your Support

    Your support makes a difference! Support Jazz in Chicago by becoming a member, volunteering or giving today.


    The Gift of Music

    Your charitable gift helps us continue to provide jazz education, develop Chicago musicians, and build audiences for a thriving jazz scene.