A Jazzman's Tale

By Annette Johnson

Music & musicians | Paperback


A Jazzman’s Tale follows Freeman’s pursuit on trumpet in New York City, back to his Ohio origins and his university’s Wilberforce Collegians, a university band in the tradition of African American universities. Wilberforce Collegians produced other notable alumni Frank Foster, George Russell, Snooky Young, Benny Carter, Norris Turney and Tiny Bradshaw and many others. As he begins to make it on trumpet in New York, he falls in love with Jenny, wife of vibraharpist Milt Jackson, before his days with the Modern Jazz Quartet. After a short detour to the military, Freeman and Jenny get together and marry in Acapulco. At specific plot points in A Jazzman’s Tale, we are treated to verbatim excerpts of the Paris interview with Freeman from 1992, five years before his death. The interview is replete with jazz slang and improvisational storytelling – adding another layer of texture to the narrative of this screenplay memoir. After many twists and turns, including stints in Riker’s Island - with other jazz musicians who perform in a show for the Rikers’ staff - Freeman loses his beloved Jenny to early death and laments the other lost jazzmen.


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A Jazzman’s Tale follows Freeman’s pursuit on trumpet in New York City, back to his Ohio origins and his university’s Wilberforce Collegians, a university band in the tradition of African American universities. Wilberforce Collegians produced other notable alumni Frank Foster, George Russell, Snooky Young, Benny Carter, Norris Turney and Tiny Bradshaw and many others. As he begins to make it on trumpet in New York, he falls in love with Jenny, wife of vibraharpist Milt Jackson, before his days with the Modern Jazz Quartet. After a short detour to the military, Freeman and Jenny get together and marry in Acapulco. At specific plot points in A Jazzman’s Tale, we are treated to verbatim excerpts of the Paris interview with Freeman from 1992, five years before his death. The interview is...


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The Author, Annette Johnson, has been a lifelong jazz fan. She has traveled in North America, Europe, and to Africa, deepening her jazz appreciation with each new encounter, with musicians from all backgrounds. She holds a graduate degree and a special place in her heart for the written or spoken word, and for music. She hopes you will be delighted with this book and its wonderful interview and photographs, and keep it as a collectors' item. She met Freeman in Paris in 1993, and he agreed to an interview which became this book.


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The Author, Annette Johnson, has been a lifelong jazz fan. She has traveled in North America, Europe, and to Africa, deepening her jazz appreciation with each new encounter, with musicians from all backgrounds. She holds a graduate degree and a special place in her heart for the written or spoken word, and for music. She hopes you will be delighted with this book and its wonderful interview and ph...


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Latest news

A literary fugue in three parts

4 August

Debbie Burke's review on A Jazzy Blog A Jazzman’s Tale (Q&A with author at https://goo.gl/3oYDHi) about trumpet player Charles Freeman Lee is a heady mélange of a book that starts off with the unique perspective of a screenplay. Part one delves deeply into the gritty life of a jazz musician whose gigging takes him from the Midwest to New York and New Jersey. It segues into a down-and-dirty, honestly spoken interview of Freeman, then wraps a bow around it with a brief study of his collegiate experiences at Wilburforce University and the rich musical history that predated his attendance at the institution. Annette Johnson perfectly captures the tone, tenor and language of the mid-century jazz musician, which provides pointed social commentary about issues like drug abuse, racism, corruption and broken promises, but also shines a light on the brotherhood among musicians, their hi-jinks and playfulness, and the albeit fleeting rewards of such a life. This is a fast-moving, highly entertaining and transportive read, visually evocative, demonstrating the disarray of a jazz life with language that echoes the spirit of improv. Johnson has dug into written and vinyl records as well as photos to come up with this unusual treatment of a jazzman’s life. Not any jazzman, though; the “quintessential” jazzman. (less)


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Debbie Burke's review on A Jazzy Blog A Jazzman’s Tale (Q&A with author at https://goo.gl/3oYDHi) about trumpet player Charles Freeman Lee is a heady mélange of a book that starts off with the unique perspective of a screenplay. Part one delves deeply into the gritty life of a jazz musician whose gigging takes him from the Midwest to New York and New Jersey. It segues into a down-and-dirty, honestly spoken interview of Freeman, then wraps a bow around it with a brief study of his collegiate experiences at Wilburforce University and the rich musical history that predated his attendance at the institution. Annette Johnson perfectly captures the tone, tenor and language of the mid-century jazz musician, which provides pointed social commentary about issues like drug abuse, racism, corru...


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