Chico’s jazz tales

A great many attempts have been made to define jazz. “What for?” some wonder, when jazz should simply be experienced live, this weekend, in the Russian capital.

­It takes passion and excitement to make it happen. And fans would agree that it also takes an intelligent ear to listen to jazz.

Jazz aficionados from America, France, Israel, Poland and Finland, as well as from Russia, will be swinging for three days running in the heart of Moscow, at the 14th annual open-air jazz festival.

Among the main highlights of the live event at the Hermitage Garden is a gig by American sax player and composer, Chico Freeman.  It has taken the festival’s organizers several years to convince Freeman to find time to play in Moscow.

A glance at Chico’s pedigree shows that a love of jazz runs in the family: Chico’s father was a legendary tenor saxophonist, while his two uncles played guitar and drums.

Freeman’s initial choice wasn’t music, however. He won a scholarship to study mathematics, and spent his leisure time playing trumpet in the school band. Having realized that “his heart belonged to Daddy,” Freeman would spend up to 10 hours daily playing sax. Eventually, music ousted maths, and a high-octane tenor was born.  

Freeman is one of those indefatigable musicians who knows the “essence of silence” and is not familiar with boredom. He is the “perpetuum mobile” type, best described as “a smooth operator”.

Back in the 1980s, he set up a band hailed as the brightest hope of jazz, The Young Lions. His next brainchild was an all-composers ensemble, The Leaders. Then The Roots took center stage to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the invention of the saxophone.   

The highly-inventive musician plays saxophone, trumpet and piano and is touring the world with his own quartet and an organ trio.

The man who has released over 40 albums will play at the Moscow jazz fest this Saturday. And just like one of Freeman’s inspiring albums suggests, “you’ll know when you get there”.

­Valeria Paikova, RT

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