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Von Freeman, New Year’s Eve, 1983 and 2010

The legendary saxophonist, who died this year at the age of 88, captured in two different New Year’s Eve performances, including one of the last he’d ever give: 2010, at the Green Mill.

Shortly after Von Freeman’s death, Howard Reich wrote a piece entitled “Haunting New Year’s Eve show exposed listeners to what Von Freeman was all about”:

The thin, elderly man onstage at the Green Mill Jazz Club sat nearly motionless. His legs, he told a few of us before the show, were failing him, and he needed to stay seated as long as possible.

But his lungs, his lips, his fingertips and his leonine heart still were primed and ready for action, as he proceeded to demonstrate beyond doubt that New Year’s Eve, when 2010 was slipping into 2011.

Anyone in the crowd who was paying attention realized that this was going to be one of the last chances to hear Chicago’s most revered living jazz musician — tenor saxophonist Von Freeman — performing live. Indeed, he would be too ill to attend a citywide tribute to him a few months later at Millennium Park, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel took the stage to pay homage to “Vonski,” invoking Freeman’s nickname to noisy applause that Freeman would not hear.

Someone captured a few minutes of a big Freeman solo that night:

By comparison, here’s Vonski playing “Remember” on New Year’s Eve 1983. The last minute of the recording is “Auld Lang Syne.”

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