Album Review of
Everybody Say Yeah!

Written by Robert Silverstein
April 3, 2022 - 5:31pm EDT
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Back in 2019 Chicago-based Southport Records turned jazz-heads around with the album George The Bomb! by jazz-guitar legend George Freeman. Why George’s name isn’t better well-known among post-modern bop-jazz guitar enthusiasts is a mystery, considering that in his 95 years he’s played with some of the greatest jazz legends. Born in 1927, George has outlived many of the contemporaries he recorded with and performed alongside, including Charlie Parker, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan to name just a few. Hats off to Chicago-based Southport Records and to Southport masterminds Joanie Pallatto and Bradley Parker-Sparrow for releasing a selection of solo albums by George Freeman since he joined the label as an artist back in the 1990s. 

In celebration of George Freeman’s 95th birthday on April 10th 2022, Southport has released a compilation featuring some of George Freeman’s finest tracks entitled Everybody Say Yeah! - The Best Of Southport Remastered. A number of artists take part in backing George’s guitar sound on the 14-track, 79-minute album, including Freeman family members Chico Freeman, George’s nephew on soprano and tenor sax, Von Freeman, George’s brother on tenor sax and piano, Billy Branch on harmonica and many other fine musicians. Even with the album showcasing so many gifted musicians, the main focus of Everybody Say Yeah! is on George with his guitar sound front and center.

Everybody Say Yeah! features mostly instrumental jazz and fusion tracks composed by George, although track five, a spellbinding 10-minute, previously unreleased 1999 cover of the George Gershwin classic “Summertime” features vocalist Joanie Pallatto, here backing George on the album’s lone vocal cut. Harry Warren’s “There Will Never Be Another You”, from 1995, features George together with brother Von on piano while another unreleased track, Dizzy Gillespie’s “Manteca” is from 1999. Another highlight on Everybody Say Yeah! is a 2022 new version of George’s track “Perfume”, here re-recorded in November 2021 as a duet between George and fellow guitarist Mike Allemana.

Although George Freeman has released and appeared on a number of albums, including his own releases, over the past 52 years, Everybody Say Yeah! - The Best Of Southport Remastered draws solely on modern-era tracks released on albums by Southport Records, including Rebellion (1995), George Burns (1999), All In The Family (2015) and of course 2019’s George The Bomb!

Those that are new to the George Freeman guitar phenomenon will be impressed by the diversity of sounds and styles on Everybody Say Yeah! - The Best Of Southport Remastered. You can also go back to his early 1970s funk-jazz albums on Delmark and Groove Merchant yet, for an overview of George Freeman’s latter day works from 1995 onward, Everybody Say Yeah! is the way to go. As this excellent compilation points out, George Freeman remains one of the essential guitar heroes of post-war jazz and now as then, his music is still worth hearing decades later. Jazz buffs and instro-jazz guitar watchers can’t go wrong by picking up a CD of George Freeman’s Everybody Say Yeah!