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CD Review: George Freeman "George the Bomb" with Billy Branch

by Hrayr Attarian

George Freeman George The Bomb!

George Freeman – electric guitar & vocals


Billy Branch – harmonica & vocals


John Devlin – 6-string electric bass, accordion and vocals


Luiz Ewerling – drums and percussion


Joanie Pallatto – vocals


Bradley Parker-Sparrow – piano


Southport Records


After a career spanning seven decades legendary guitarist George Freeman continues to create captivating music in his own one-of-a-kind style. His 2019 George The Bomb, the release of which coincides with his 92nd birthday, is a unique blend of blues and other related genres delivered in a laid back and almost ethereal ambience. Joining him are longtime friends who are among the stalwarts of the Chicago music scene. The warm camaraderie among them gives the album a celebratory feel that is simultaneously enjoyable and satisfying.


The title track opens the recording on an, almost, psychedelic vibe. Freeman’s sparse chords are earthy and resonant as they form hypnotic vamps filled with vibrant spontaneity. Blues harpist Billy Branch provides dense, gritty refrains as punctuation for both the guitar solo as well as the vocal chorus chanting the name of the song. Bassist John Devlin embellishes the tune with a brief and elegant improvisation.


Devlin switches to accordion in a dramatic duet with Freeman on the haunting and passionate “Uncle Funky”. Drummer Luiz Ewerling lays down a restless groove that percolates in the background. Ewerling switches to a swinging beat on the effervescent “Music Goes 'Round and Around”. The piece features singer Joanie Pallatto’s rich and agile vocals in addition to Devlin’s smooth accordion and Freeman’s virtuoso guitar.


The band channels a jam session atmosphere as Branch and Freeman exchange lines, both verbal and musical, in a witty and clever conversation on the soulful “Where's The Cornbread?”. The rhythm section creates a simmering cadence that buoys this engaging dialogue.


Pianist Bradley Parker-Sparrow adds angular and delightfully dissonant phrases to the intriguingly complex and cinematic “Tonto”. Wordless vocalizing punctuates Freeman and Parker-Sparrow’s respective extemporizations.


Despite entering his tenth decade of life Freeman shows no sign of slowing down. What is singular about his work is that he continues to explore newer ways of expression that are refreshingly modern yet remain deeply rooted in tradition.


Visit Southport Records to purchase the new recording