Bonding through Over Comping: George Freeman and Billy Branch

Although he jokingly tells The Chicago Reader’s James Porter that “Jazz is bougie, Blues is low-class”, harmonica player Billy Branch, 67, has formed a playing partnership with guitarist George Freeman, 92, the last surviving member of the first generation of one of Chicago’s most notable families of Jazz musicians, which included his late brothers Bruzz Freeman, a drummer and Von Freeman, a tenor saxophonist. An important part of playing this sort of music is sophisticatedly accompanying soloists or “comping” in Jazz parlance. And one of the reasons for the new partnership, Freeman and Branch agree is that each musician says the other is talented in following that “comping” tradition.As the two continues to bring the twin poles of Jazz and Blues closer together, Freeman has featured Branch on his most recent CD, while Branch for his part has started to include Jazz standards composed by the likes of Benny Golson and Miles Davis to his set list.