Howard Reich at the Tribune reports that tenor saxophonist Von Freeman died on Saturday of heart failure at age 88. Because Freeman stayed in Chicago for most of his life instead of lighting out for the coasts to pursue fame and fortune, he was hugely influential here and just as deeply beloved. The city renamed the stretch of 75th Street in front of his New Apartment Lounge “Von Freeman Way” in 2002. And his influence extended far beyond Chicago: last year the National Endowment for the Arts named him one of its Jazz Masters, a distinction awarded to only 100 artists or so since the program’s inception in 1982.

Reich’s obituary and remembrance is very much worth your time, and the Reader has a lot of Vonski articles in its archives too. My favorites? As part of the celebration of our 40th year in 2011, longtime contributor Neil Tesser revisited the very first substantial piece anyone had ever written about Freeman—not at all by coincidence, it was a feature he’d done for the Reader in 1973. At the time Freeman was in his 50s and had just released his first album, Doin’ It Right Now, produced by Rahsaan Roland Kirk; though already a fully formed genius, at the time he was something of a south-side secret. Fortunately that changed in the decades that followed—the whole world of jazz knows about Vonski now, and on the sad occasion of his passing, the whole world of jazz can pay its respects.

Philip Montoro

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.