Von Freeman died early this month at age 88. Freeman was a great jazz man, a sax player who excelled at his art and was a mentor to many younger players. One of his students was Kurt Elling, a Grammy Award winner and long-time Wednesday night regular at Chicago’s Green Mill. Elling now lives in New York, but he has not forgotten his teacher. He said Freeman taught him how to play, how to dress, and even how to drink: “I owe him my vocation in life.” May we all find mentors who can deserve such praise. Vonski, RIP.
Freeman at the 1988 Chicago Jazz Festival.
Democracy Now has produced a powerful tribute to the lyricist Yip Harburg. Harburg honestly captured the spirit of the Great Depression in “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime.” He went on to write lyrics for stage shows/films that included “The Wizard of Oz” and “Finian’s Rainbow.” After WWII, Harburg was an early victim of Senator Joe McCarthy’s witch hunt. Blacklisted, he could not work on a film project until the 1960s.
Harburg believed in telling the truth, especially about the struggles of working people. What I like most about this film tribute to Harburg was its display of his courage and strength, his faith in a better world – somewhere over the rainbow.
One of my favorite jazz singers Kurt Elling recorded Harburg’s “April in Paris.” Check out this video to see how Harburg’s words sing on.