Chico Freeman, the tenor saxophonist who has been a creative force in jazz for more than four decades, will return to New York City, where he released his first album “Morning Prayer” (1976), after living in Europe for the past decade.
He will perform for one night only at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola May 19 for two shows at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The Chico Freeman Plus+tet will feature pianist Luke Carlos O’Reilly, bassist Kenny Davis, drummer Nasheet Waits and exotic percussionist Reto Weber.
The saxophonist will also celebrate the domestic release of his latest album, “Spoken Into Existence.”
In the early 2000s, with his reputation well intact, Freeman moved from New York to Europe to start a new chapter of exploration that focused on self-reflection and self-improvement.
As a native of Chicago and member of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, Freeman effortlessly flows between traditional and avant-garde explorations. Between 1969 and 1975, he played with AACM members Muhal Richard Abrams, Henry Threadgill and Steve McCall, and in various fusion and R&B bands, including the horn section of Earth, Wind & Fire.
He has more than 30 albums as a leader and six co-led dates with his late father, tenor saxophonist Von Freeman.
His curiosity to explore working with different musicians and living in different cultures while challenging himself to be better has prepared him for this new stateside chapter of his life.
Nina Simone’s 2001 performance at the JVC Jazz Festival in Carnegie Hall was a memorable concert in jazz history. That evening the entire block of the famed hall was all abuzz as some anxious fans scurried through the overzealous crowd with large signs that read “Looking for Nina tickets,” to no avail.
As the songwriter, pianist, composer and activist walked on stage the audience went into pandemonium, giving her a five-minute standing ovation. It was Simone’s first New York appearance in a few years since relocating to France.
Ironically, the biopic “Nina,” released last month and written and directed by Cynthia Mort, is devoid of all the love and inspiration that surrounded this icon during her last New York performance.
Mort and the Hollywood jokesters instead embarked on their usual “creative liberties” motto. The film, loosely based on Simone’s life, focuses on her psychological problems, her alcoholism and her romantic relationship with her manager Clifton Henderson. A romantic relationship that Simone’s daughter Lisa says never happened. Even in the film the relationship is very vague.
The film is disrespectful to Simone, highlighting only a few spurts of her creativity through film clips from her early days.
Simone left the United States feeling that she wasn’t getting her due respect as an artist. She was appalled at the way Blacks are continuously treated in this country.
It is very conceivable she would not have been surprised over Hollywood’s treatment of her life, although the color conflict between her sisters over who should get the role may have disappointed her.
If one listens to Simone’s lyrics of “Four Women,” it is apparent color has always been a tool of division from slavery to this very moment. “Four Women” begins: “My skin is black/my arms are long/my hair is woolly/my back is strong/strong enough to take the pain/inflicted again and again/what do they call me/my name is Aunt Sarah/my name is Aunt Sarah. My skin is yellow/my hair is long/between two worlds/I do belong/my father was rich and white/he forced my mother late one night/what do they call me/my name is Saffronia/my name is Saffronia. My skin is tan/my hair is fine/my hips invite you/my mouth like wine/whose little girl am I/anyone who has money to buy/what do they call me/my name is Sweet Thing/my name is Sweet Thing. My skin is brown/my manner is tough/I’ll kill the first mother I see/my life has been too rough/I’m awfully bitter these days/because my parents were slaves/what do they call me/my name is Peaches!”
Personally, by hiring Saldana, Mort took some of the character’s tough Black edge away from a visual perspective. The acting game is owned by Hollywood; they hire who they want, they green-light the scripts they like without any regard for the truth (it’s all about the dollars).
Those interested in an honest and compassionate perspective of Simone should see the documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone,” directed by Liz Garbus. It is now on Netflix.
Simone was nominated for 15 Grammy Awards, and there is a statue in her honor in her hometown of Tryon, N.C. She was anointed the High Priestess of Soul because her haunting voice really did put a spell on you.