It was not quite the typical Tuesday jam session at the New Apartment Lounge on the South Side where Legendary tenor sax man Von Freeman "holds court" on a weekly basis, for on this Tuesday, "Vonski" was celebrating his 86th birthday. This writer arrived around 11pm as the "house" band was setting up for what was to be a long night with Vonski 's friends coming and going for the next four plus hours.
In addition to Von's musical friends, the intimate bar area was full of his "regulars" - those who make this set (and any other Vonski set), on a weekly basis.
Von started the first set with his quartet of Max Ferguson, on bass, Micheal Alamana on guitar, and Micheal Rayner holding down the time on the drums. They played for a steady hour before Von's friends began to stroll to the bandstand to help this giant celebrate his birthday with a song or two. This group included, Catherine Whitley, Carolyn Whitfield, Tecora Rogers, Betty Reynolds, Stephanie Aaron, Charlotte Foster and the sole male vocalist, Teddy "Bear" Thomas. This went on for about an hour as Von patiently stood on the bandstand, obviously enjoying this very special evening.
Upon their completion, Von slowly retired to the bar area, accepting congratulations from all assembled before finally finding an area of the bar where friends provided a birthday cake and libations. For the next few hours, Von simply engaged in conversation with friends as the "young turks" took over the bandstand. This group included, trumpeter Corey Wilkes, saxophonists Kevin Nabors and Anthony Bruno and Trumpeter Zaid Krisberg. There were many other unnamed musicians who doned the stage until this writer left around 3am.
What a lovely evening for a wonderful human being. "Vonski" may not have the "chops" that he once had, but he can still hold his own with most reedmen. Congratulations "Vonski", and may you have many, many more.
Von can be seen leading a jam session each Tuesday from around 10:30pm until 3 or 4 am at the New Apartment Lounge at 504 E. 75th St. on the City's South Side. If one plan to attend one of these sessions, as suggested by vocalist Margaret Murphy, "take a nap before arriving because they don't even get warmed up until after midnight."