Sunday, 24 July 2011 16:09
Jazz legends from the west and east
Quartet led by two legends of jazz: tenor saxophonist Chico Freeman and pianist Milcho Leviev is going to perform at first day of Nisville festival (August 11th). The other memebers of the band are drummer from Swiss Joris Dudli and double bass player from Bulgaria Vall Varssamo.An excellent tenor saxophonist and the son of Von Freeman, Chico Freeman (born Earl Lavon Freeman Jr.; July 17, 1949) has had a busy and diverse career, with many recordings ranging from advanced hard bop to nearly free avant-garde jazz. He began recording as lead musician in 1976 with Morning Prayer, won the New York Jazz Award in 1979 and earned the Stereo Review Record of the Year in 1981 for his album The Outside Within.
Freeman was introduced to the trumpet by his brother Everett, who found a trumpet in the family basement.Freeman began playing, inspired by artists such as Miles Davis. He went to Northwestern University in 1967 with a scholarship for mathematics and played the trumpet in the school, but did not begin playing the saxophone until his junior year. After practicing eight to ten hours per day and trying out for the saxophone section, Freeman quickly changed his major to music, and graduated in 1972. By that time he was proficient in saxophone, trumpet, and piano
After graduation, Freeman taught at the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians School of Music in Chicago and started taking classes as a graduate student at Governors State University, earning a master's degree in composition and theory. Although most of Freeman's musical upbringing had been in jazz, at this time he began getting involved in blues music as well. He began playing at local Chicago clubs with artists such as Memphis Slim and Lucky Carmichael.
1976 saw the release of Freeman's first album as lead musician, Morning Prayer. The next year he moved to New York City, and widened his musical influences. The following years would be the most productive of his career, producing albums such as No Time Left, Tradition in Transition, and The Outside Within; the last of which earned him Record of the Year from Stereo Review.
He came to prominence in the late 1970s as part of a movement including Wynton Marsalis of modern players steeped in the traditions of jazz, recording for independent labels like India Navigation and Contemporary Records. Freeman's albums contain standards and compositions by modernists like John Coltrane as well as new tunes by Freeman and his contemporaries such as bassist Cecil McBee. The line-up on his 1981 album Destiny's Dance includes Wynton Marsalis, Bobby Hutcherson, Cecil McBee (these two contributing compositions), with Freeman playing tenor saxophone and bass clarinet. Freeman formed the band Guataca and released Oh By the Way... in 2002. Freeman has toured internationally, both with his band as well as with Chaka Khan, Tomasz Stanko, Celia Cruz and Tito Puente. Members of Guataca include Hilton Ruiz, Ruben Rodriguez, Yoron Israel, and Giovanni Hidalgo.
In 1989, he put together an electric band called Brainstorm consisting of himself, Delmar Brown (vocals and keyboards), Norman Hedman (percussion), Chris Walker (bassist), Archie Walker (drums).
In 1998, Freeman produced an album for Arthur Blythe called NightSong, and in 1999 he began teaching at New School University.
Milcho Leviev (December 19, 1937, Plovdiv, Bulgaria) is a Bulgarian composer, arranger, jazz performer and pianist. The great Don Ellis once said (DownBeat 1/31/74) „ Milcho Leviev is definitely one of today`s jazz geniuses“.
Milcho Leviev graduated from the State Academy of Music in 1960 majoring in Composition under Professor Pancho Vladigerov and in Piano under Professor Andrei Stoyanov. As a student, he won the second prize at the International Competition in Vienna for his Toccatina for piano. His professional development as a composer began at the Drama Theatre in Plovdiv.
He was appointed conductor of the Big Band of the Bulgarian National Radio after Emil Georgiev left office (1962–66). His vanguard ideas innovated the orchestra; pieces like Studia, Blues in 9 or Anti-waltz became a standard of a successful synthesis between music folklore and jazz, this synthesis being particularly pronounced in his music. From 1963 to 1968 he worked as soloist and conductor of the Sofia and the Plovdiv Philharmonic. In 1965, embracing the idea of the writer Radoy Ralin, he founded Jazz Focus ‘65, with which he toured actively till 1970, achieving great success for the Bulgarian jazz and winning prizes at the international jazz festivals in Montreux, Prague and Sofia. Among the most exciting pieces in the repertoire of Jazz Focus ‘65 was Blues in 10 and Blues in 12, as well as the arrangement of Paul McCartney’s Yesterday.
In 1970 he left Bulgaria for political reasons and moved to Los Angeles. Since then, he has lived and worked abroad and achieved professional acclaim at prestigious international music stages. He was allowed to perform in Bulgaria not earlier than 1980.
He worked as composer, arranger and pianist at the Don Ellis (1970–1975) Orchestra and the Billy Cobham Band (1971–77). He toured the USA and Europe; he was Music Director of Lainie Kazan (1977–80). He gave concerts and made recordings with John Klemmer, Art Pepper, Roy Haynes, etc. He toured Europe with Art Pepper (1980–82); at the same time he was one of the founders and managers of Free Flight, selected Combo of the Year in 1982. Since 1983 he has been music director of the Jazz Sessions at the Comeback Inn in Venice, California. He gave concerts in Japan with the bassist Dave Holland (1983–86) and organized solo jazz recitals in Europe (1985–86). He teaches Jazz Composition at the University of South California. He also gives master classes at the New Bulgarian University in Sofia.
He is author of symphony and chamber works; big band and jazz orchestra music, etc. In the 1960s he also wrote film music.
In 1987 he won the Dramalogue Prize for best music director awarded by the PCPA Theaterfest. His works and performances were recorded by Atlas Records, Alpha, Discovery, Balkanton, Columbia, Atlantic, ABC and others. Part of his works were published by Dick Drove Publications and the Bulgarian publishing house Nauka I Izkustvo (up to 1968). He won a prize at the National Jazz Educational Congress, the Grammy Prize for arrangement, the Honorary Gold Medal of the Académie internationale des Arts in Paris (1995). He was also awarded the honorary title Doctor Honoris Causa by the Academy of Music and Dance Art in Plovdiv (1995) and by the New Bulgarian University.