Freeman, Bud (Lawrence)

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Freeman, Bud (Lawrence)

Freeman, Bud (Lawrence), tenor saxophonist, clarinetist, composer; b. Chicago, April 13, 1906; d. there, March 15, 1991. Freeman started on “C” melody sax in 1923, taking a few lessons from Jimmy McPartland’s father, then studied for six months with Duke Real. He was an early cohort of the Austin High Gang, playing regularly with Jimmy (cornet) and Dick (guitar) McPartland, and Frank Teschmacher (reed player) in The Blue Friars. From April 1925, he played the tenor sax. The Blue Friars worked under Husk O’Hare’s management as The Red Dragons and began broadcasting on radio station WHT; when the original Wolverines disbanded. During 1926, the group worked as Husk O’Hare’s Wolverines, played at White City Ballroom, Chicago, and in other local venues. Later that year, Bud joined Herb Carlin, then toured with Art Kassel. On his return to Chicago, he played for various leaders, and recorded with the McKenzie and Condon Chicagoans, as well as leading his own recording band. In late 1927, he joined Ben Pollack and moved with the band to N.Y. in February 1928. He had left Pollack by summer of 1928, briefly accompanied Bea Palmer (left after a week), and then sailed to Europe for a two-week date playing aboard the He de France. He returned to N.Y. and then worked through mid-1934 with Red Nichols, Zez Confrey, and other jazz-pop bands. From 1934 on, he worked primarily with big bands, including Joe Haymes from (spring 1934), Ray Noble’s Orch. (opening at Rainbow Room, Radio City, N.Y, 1935), Tommy Dorsey (April 1936-March 1938), and Benny Goodman (March-November 1938). In April 1939, he took his own Summa Cum Laude Band into Kelly’s, N.Y. The band played many residencies, as well as for the short-lived musical Swingin’ the Dream (a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Louis Armstrong and Maxine Sullivan) in November 1939. They disbanded in July 1940, and Bud toured with his own big band before joining Joe Marsala in October 1940. He returned to Chicago, and then led his own big band (soon reduced to a small group) for club work. He served in the U.S. Army from June 1943 until 1945, and led a service band at Fort George, Md., then led a big band in the Aleutians. After the war, he worked stints in Chicago and N.Y, leading his own small bands, and continuing prolific freelance recording activities, including regular sessions with Eddie Condon. He continued leading small groups throughout the 1950s and 1960s, regularly featured at major jazz festivals throughout the U.S. He was temporarily out of action for six months (late 1967 to spring 1968) after an automobile accident. In 1969, he was a founding member of the World’s Greatest Jazz Band, with co-leaders Bob Haggart and Yank Lawson, remaining with it until 1971. He moved to London in 1974, continuing to perform and tour. In 1978, he returned to Chicago. He worked club jobs and toured through the remainder of his life, and also authored three books. He died of cancer just short of his 85th birthday. Critics mistakenly listed him as a source of Lester Young’s style, based on Young’s comment that he liked Bud Freeman’s playing with Benny Goodman in 1938; too late for either of them to influence each other. In any case Freeman’s earliest recordings are in a heavy style quite unlike Young’s, or his own bubbling later work.


Midnight at Eddie Condon’s (1945); Comes Jazz (1950); Bud Freeman (1955); Newport News (1956); And His Summa Cum Laude Trio (1958); Midnight Session (1959); All Stars with Shorty Baker (1960); Something Tender (1963); Compleat Bud Freeman (1969); Joy of Sax (1974); Song of the Tenor (1975); Jazz Meeting in Holland (1975); Bucky and Bud (1976); Live in Harlem (1978); Real Bud Freeman (1983).


You Don’t Look Like a Musician (Detroit, 1974), If You Know a Better Life, Please Tell Me (Dublin, 1976); Crazeology: The Autobiography of a Chicago Jazzman (Oxford, 1989).

—John Chilton, Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter