Showing posts from October, 2019

Happy birthday, Von Freeman!

Earle Lavon “Von” Freeman Sr. would have been 96 today, as hard as that is to believe. That’s because the great “Von-ski” (as many of his friends and fans called him) continued to be a key player on the Chicago jazz scene up until his death in August 2012 . Von was one of the founders of the post-war “Chicago school” of tenor sax – a school that included greats like Johnny Griffin, Gene Ammons and Clifford Jordan. But while he came of age as a tenor sax force in the 1940s, he kept his ears open to any post-bop sounds that he heard, including the avant-garde jazz championed by Ornette Coleman and others. The video above was produced 10 years before Freeman’s death, in 2002. The great Chicago Tribune arts critic Howard Reich knew (and knows) everyone on the Chicago jazz scene by first name. And he arranged for an extremely rare on-camera interview with “Von-ski” at one of his favorite haunts at that time, the Green Mill Lounge in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.   I produ

Thoughts on the Hotel Sherman and the Thompson Center

Split screen showing corner of Randolph and LaSalle Streets in 1936 and 2019. See photo slider version at bottom of blog post. (Vintage ad/John Owens) The recently-launched James R. Thompson Center Historical Society made a unique entreaty to Chicagoans this week. The group --composed of an architect, real estate reporter and architectural historian in the city-- encouraged Chicagoans to "visit the building and contribute to the ongoing discussion of the past, present and future in Chicago," according to this story from the Sun-Times' Tina Sfondeles. This reminded me of the recent Twitterverse suggestions about turning it into a hotel, which seemed like a feasible idea for this unique Helmut Jahn building. Of course, doing so would bring the location back to its roots, since the legendary Hotel Sherman/Sherman House occupied this space in one way or another from 1837 to 1973. The last iteration of the Hotel Sherman, designed by the ubiquitous Chicago architect