Vonology is a composition in five movements about saxophonist Von Freeman (1923–2012) performed by his longstanding rhythm section and musicians who mentored with or had a personal connection to Von. It is not a tribute in the traditional sense (e.g., playing songs he composed or liked to perform), but an original artistic work that represents through sound and text the ways in which Von musically and spiritually connected with others and transformed people’s lives. The five movements are the result of years of historical and ethnographic research, astrological research, and personal experience, what in essence is the second volume of my dissertation “‘Will You Still Be Mine?’: Memory, Place, Race, and Jazz on Chicago’s South Side.” 

A crucial value that Von shared with musicians and his audiences was individuality. Musicians were not solely to “express yourself,” as he would often shout, but to also express your “self.” Every musician who knew Von knows what I mean. Thus, the five movements of Vonology are compositions that reflect my personal voice while leaving room for improvisers to share their musical individuality. The best tribute I could offer Von would be to create something new in which my colleagues and I collaborate to dig deep and express our musical selves.

Next: Origins of Vonology