George Freeman and Mike Allemana Credit: Harvey S. Tillis

One of the great stories in Chicago jazz over the past few years has been the resurgence of guitarist George Freeman, a key figure in one of the city’s most celebrated jazz families. He’s now outlived his brothers Von (a brilliant saxophonist) and Bruz (a drummer), and at age 90 Freeman is about to drop one of the strongest recordings of his career. In 2013 Constellation owner and drummer Mike Reed approached guitarist Mike Allemana, who spent years in Von’s working band at the New Apartment Lounge, about putting together an organ combo with Freeman. The new band led a weekly engagement at the club that summer, and since then Freeman seems to have shaken off all signs of rust. Next month the band will drop Live at the Green Mill (Ears & Eyes), taped in 2015 at the historic Uptown lounge with regular organist Pete Benson and the legendary Bernard “Pretty” Purdie filling in for Mike Schlick on drums. As good as any mainstream jazz record I’ve heard in 2017, Live is an ebullient romp through soul-jazz and hard-bop fundamentals, guided by a deep connection to the blues. Benson lays down the chords gracefully, and Purdie is a pure rhythm machine; few other drummers could bring so much energy without getting in the way. Schlick is back on drums for tonight’s performance, which is being taped for NPR’s Jazz Night in America.   v