Mike Freeman ZonaVibe
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Mike Freeman ZonaVibe

| INDIE | AFM

| INDIE | AFM
Band Latin Jazz

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Dec
31
Mike Freeman ZonaVibe @ First Night

Westport/Weston, Connecticut, USA

Westport/Weston, Connecticut, USA

Oct
27
Mike Freeman ZonaVibe @ Central Bank Auditorium

Port Of Spain, Not Applicable, Trinidad and Tobago

Port Of Spain, Not Applicable, Trinidad and Tobago

Oct
24
Mike Freeman ZonaVibe @ Skiffle Bunch Pan Theatre

San Fernando, Not Applicable, Trinidad and Tobago

San Fernando, Not Applicable, Trinidad and Tobago

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Mike Freeman & Zona Vibe

In The Zone
CD (VOF 2007), Released 2007;

Editor's Pick:
Vibe and marimba player Mike Freeman's intrumental ensemble Zona Vibe interprets these mostly all original compositions with a sultry sabor that intoxicates. Their sound seems to gently parachute down ...and melt in your ears. With a wonderfully seasoned Latin rhythm section that features Little Johnny Rivero on congas, bassist Ricardo Rodriguez, and timbalero Harry Adorno. Bruce Saunder's guitarwork delivers added detail and color to the work. A special treat is Freeman's rendition of the Jimmy Sabater / Joe Cuba classic "A Las Seis." After listening to In The Zone I heard myself saying "Damn, what a beauty." Enough said.
Highly Recommended. (BP, 2007-06-22) - Descarga.com


While some elements of a genre are easily altered, instrumentation remains one area that never evolves easily. While variations on aesthetic approaches take some analysis to pick out, the tone of the instruments is the first things that hit our ears. We become accustomed to a certain sound in a style, and when musicians insert different instruments, we notice immediately. Stylistically unusual instruments require different playing techniques, forcing musicians to perform the music with a slightly different approach. Altering instrumentation inspires musicians to compose differently, moving instruments into different musical functions. Musicians may utilize the same set of aesthetics, but performing with an altered instrumentation requires careful thought and deliberation. Mike Freeman’s ZonaVibe tackles an altered instrumentation on In The Zone with a solid set of traditional Latin Jazz that eliminates the piano and substitutes vibraphone, marimba, and guitar.

Teaming Vibes and Guitar Into Strong Arrangements
Some tracks feature a combination of vibes and guitar, which compliment each other through well-conceived arrangements. Guitarist Bruce Saunders maintains a rhythmic comping pattern behind Freeman’s melody on the bomba “Mr. 2000? before the two musicians play a harmonized bridge. Freeman’s solo glides through the chord progression smoothly, eventually building into a rhythmic climax. Saunders mixes syncopated rhythmic figures with jazz phrases while Freeman pushes the band with a strong montuno. Saunders adopts a distorted tone to accent pieces of Freeman’s melody on “Cha Cha Mama,” providing a bluesy underpinning to the song. Freeman switches between blues based ideas and long, flowing jazz lines, over a somewhat thin texture. Saunders attacks his improvisation with an edgy sound, playing with rock energy while executing jazz phrases. An extended percussion break opens “Afriman,” which features Freeman and Saunders playing intertwining melodic lines over a 6/8 rhythm. Freeman displays a more rhythmic sound to his improvisation, mixing static ideas with longer phrases. Saunders revives his distorted sound for his solo, displaying chops that creep closer to rock than jazz. After a return to the melody, Freeman establishes a montuno that serves as the foundation for a stirring solo from conguero Johnny Rivero. A long introduction that combines rhythmic ostinatos and band hits leads “Red Thunder” into an energetic melody played by Freeman. The band moves into high gear as Freeman jumps into an intensive solo that combines fast runs and repeated rhythmic ideas. Saunders immediately contrasts Freeman with an understated approach that focuses upon melodic development. The group revisits the melody before playing a vamp for short solos from Rivero and timbalero Harry Adorno. Each piece benefits from thoughtful construction and sensitive playing from Freeman and Saunders.

A Rich Texture Through Multiple Mallets
Other tracks emphasize the dual sound of Freeman’s vibes and marimba to shape the arrangements. The rhythm section accents strong points in Freeman’s introduction on “Todos Vuelvan,” leading into an elegant melody over a rumba guaguanco. Dramatic percussion breaks lead into a harmonized interlude between vibes and marimba, until Freeman exposes his rhythmic mastery on a marimba solo. The vibes establish a montuno as Rivero demonstrates his knowledge of the conga vocabulary, ending the song on a strong dynamic. Rivero and Adorno deliver a strong break to open “There Ya Go,” leading into an upbeat melody on vibes. Freeman navigates the changes on marimba with bebop virtuosity and percussive intensity. The group emphasizes a series of band hits, leaving space for strong solo fills from Adorno and Rivero that lead into a vibraphone solo. Freeman grounds “Horse’s Run” with a marimba montuno that ties firmly into the vibraphone melody. Adorno pushes Freeman’s vibraphone solo with funky snare drum hits, encouraging intensive runs and rhythmic displacements. A funky breakdown leads back to the melody and then a montuno for a creative exchange between Rivero and Adorno. An up-beat montuno on the vibes open “A Las Seis,” a highly arranged piece that alternates between a variety of melodic sections. After a short breakdown, the piece opens up into a descarga that allows Freeman to explore a variety of different ideas. Adorno attacks his solo with ferocious intensity, leading the song back to the breakdown to end. These songs serve as strong features for Freeman, whose prowess on both vibes and marimba lends to a richly crafted sound.

Standing as a Latin Jazz Gem
Freeman sidesteps the traditional Latin Jazz instrumentation on In The Zone, but builds upon the strengths of his band to deliver a solid Latin Jazz sound. His songwriting combines traditional Latin Jazz with creative arrangements that emphasize the rich tone of his mallets as well as the instrument’s percussive nature. His insight into writing - Latinjazz Corner


Four Stars Allmusicguide.com

“Freeman's undertaking has flair for melodic creativity, colorful instrumentation, and rhythmic bounce which when combined with the South of the Border rhythms, make this an attractive addition to the collection.” Dave Nathan, Allaboutjazz.com

“Wiggle Stomp a refreshing new feel with no pretentions ... it delivered mightily”. Butch Berman, Jazz newsletter Berman Music Foundation

Mike Freeman is “obsessed with the wide variety of rhythms and percussion techniques common to all forms of Latin music, and his work here clearly reflects that fascination.” Jazztimes - Various


Mike Freeman "... a melodic interpreter as well as a master soloist." Gavin

"The natural versatility of the vibes is exquisitely expressed by Mike Freeman... Discovering Mike Freeman & Spellbound will be truly serendipitous for us all." MAC Report

"Everyone should enjoy this one [Street Shuffle]; it's a hot album...it's apparent that he's been performing and woodshedding for years." The Music Independent

Freeman's vibraphone... “It floats and bops creating excitement...the best place for Street Shuffle is in your CD player." PAS, Percussive Notes

“Freeman’s sensitive touch and flowing melodicism warrant attention.” Chuck Berg, Jazztimes

"...a smooth hynotic path filled with mesmerizing solos by Freeman." Chicago Jazz Bulletin

“... a cut above...” Cadence - Various


Mike Freeman & Spellbound "Excellent Show!" Bucknell University, PA - NACA Campus Activities

Mike Freeman is "exceptional" and "dedicated to the highest standards of jazz improvisation." Ralph Towner

Mike Freeman with his vibraphone and four mallets, makes a combination that is unbeatable." O Diario, Lisbon

"Mike Freeman...vibraphone player with a high technical level and excellent melodic and harmonic creativity." "The hypnotic power of the vibraphone was a winning atmosphere."Diario de Noticas, Lisbon - Various


“It's a fine effort showing plenty of jazz diversity, chops, invention, spirit, taste and soul, well worthy of wider recognition. - Michael G. Nastos WEMU-FM Detroit, MI

“It sounds like a keeper! I can always use a decent vibe project and yours is definitely all that and more! - Kevin O'Connor KBEM Minneapolis

We’re playing it alot, “it’s a nice change of pace from everything else were getting” - Wally Crawford WKGC Panama City, FL

“...Lots of great stuff” - Kara Moore KSJS San Jose, CA

“...It’s a lot of fun” - Jamie Adams WUCF Orlando, FL

“Nice piece of work” - Andy O’leary KUVO Denver, CO

“We’re enjoying it” - Brad Stone KKUP San Jose, CA

“Nice cd, it will do well” - Todd Kennedy WFIT Melbourne, FL

“...It’s sweet stuff” - Linda Yohn WEMU Detroit, MI

“This is a nice cd” - Malvin Massey WUMR Memphis TN

“Mike Freeman brings a very fresh and eclectic approach to the his CD Wiggle
Stomp. ...the titles are all nutty and reflect the playful, completely original approach to the music. The material here is diverse (and strong)...” - Luis Moreno Jazz Buffalo, Moderator Yahoo Latinjazz group - Various


Mike Freeman "... a melodic interpreter as well as a master soloist." Gavin

"The natural versatility of the vibes is exquisitely expressed by Mike Freeman... Discovering Mike Freeman & Spellbound will be truly serendipitous for us all." MAC Report

"Everyone should enjoy this one [Street Shuffle]; it's a hot album...it's apparent that he's been performing and woodshedding for years." The Music Independent

Freeman's vibraphone... “It floats and bops creating excitement...the best place for Street Shuffle is in your CD player." PAS, Percussive Notes

“Freeman’s sensitive touch and flowing melodicism warrant attention.” Chuck Berg, Jazztimes

"...a smooth hynotic path filled with mesmerizing solos by Freeman." Chicago Jazz Bulletin

“... a cut above...” Cadence - Various


This group known as Mike Freeman and ZonaVibe is a remarkable tour de force as a jazz group, and with Mike Freeman's leadership and compositions places them in a unique placement as one of the finest Latin sounds in contemporary jazz. Many in the jazz audience will recognize the group members immediately and their past contributions to jazz music.

As a vibesman, Mike Freeman is one of the best currently living and performing. His style and talent make for interesting listening and pleasurable entertainment. There are nine songs on the CD, and the collection is superb.

Among the songs are "Mr. 2000," "There Ya Go," "Cha Cha Mama," "Red Thunder," "The Fallen," "Todos Vuelven," "Afriman," "Horse's Run," and "A Las Seis." Each song is a jazz gem! Every song in this collection is an eye-opener! Lively, compact, agreeable explorations of an inventive nature -- this best defines the collection as a whole. The solo work is superb, and the group sound is extraordinary in scope! There is never a dull moment with this CD collection.

If you are looking for a fine, inventive vibraphonist and an exciting jazz group, give a listen to Mike Freeman and his ZonaVibe. These musicians are topnotch, professional, and a true enjoyment to listen to. They have a great sound and share it with the audience in a wonderful manner.

Give them a listen, you won't regret it! Buy a copy for a friend, too! Highly recommended.

Reviewed by: Lee Prosser - Jazzreview.com


Review by Ken Dryden

Mike Freeman and Zona Vibe is a top notch Latin jazz quintet that often sounds like a bigger band. The leader doubles on vibes and marimba, utilizing a four mallet technique to achieve a fuller sound on his instruments, which he often uses together. Guitarist Bruce Saunders is the other major soloist, though Freeman breaks with the Latin Jazz tradition of Cal Tjader and Tito Puente by omitting a keyboard, resulting in greater focus on his phenomenal chops. Seven of the nine songs are Freeman originals, highlighted by his sassy salsa "Cha Cha Mama," the turbulent "Red Thunder" and the engaging chant-like "Afriman." Bassist Ricardo Rodriguez, percussionist arry Adorno and conga player Little Johnny Rivero supply a solid foundation for the quintet's tasty Latin Jazz. - All Music Guide


This group known as Mike Freeman and ZonaVibe is a remarkable tour de force as a jazz group, and with Mike Freeman's leadership and compositions places them in a unique placement as one of the finest Latin sounds in contemporary jazz. Many in the jazz audience will recognize the group members immediately and their past contributions to jazz music.

As a vibesman, Mike Freeman is one of the best currently living and performing. His style and talent make for interesting listening and pleasurable entertainment. There are nine songs on the CD, and the collection is superb.

Among the songs are "Mr. 2000," "There Ya Go," "Cha Cha Mama," "Red Thunder," "The Fallen," "Todos Vuelven," "Afriman," "Horse's Run," and "A Las Seis." Each song is a jazz gem! Every song in this collection is an eye-opener! Lively, compact, agreeable explorations of an inventive nature -- this best defines the collection as a whole. The solo work is superb, and the group sound is extraordinary in scope! There is never a dull moment with this CD collection.

If you are looking for a fine, inventive vibraphonist and an exciting jazz group, give a listen to Mike Freeman and his ZonaVibe. These musicians are topnotch, professional, and a true enjoyment to listen to. They have a great sound and share it with the audience in a wonderful manner.

Give them a listen, you won't regret it! Buy a copy for a friend, too! Highly recommended.

Reviewed by: Lee Prosser - Jazzreview.com


Discography

Mike Freeman ZonaVibe - In The Zone, 2007
16 Weeks on JazzWeek’s World Music Chart, On nationally syndicated Jazz After Hours and cable radio's Music Choice

Mike Freeman -- Wiggle Stomp, VOF recordings
Charted on Gavin’s jazz radio chart * On nationally syndicated “Jazz After Hours” radio show * Heard on the “Joey Reynolds Show” WOR-AM radio network

Mike Freeman & Spellbound -- Street Shuffle, Best Recordings Major U.S. distribution and airlay * Gavin Jazz Chart, Gavin Adult Alternative Chart; Radio & Records chart; MAC Report chart * Aired on David Sanborn’s Nationally Syndicated Radio Show * United Airlines in-flight playlist

Mike Freeman & Spellbound, debut recording

Other recordings include:
Mark Hole Zambomba, Three Gold Coins, 2008
Lucho Cueto's, Black Sugar, 2007
Ray Mantilla, Good Vibrations Jazzweek's #1 Latinjazz recording, 2006
Son Boricua, Fabuloso 70's, 2004
Mark Holen Zambomba, Streching The Truth, 1997

Photos

Bio

Mike Freeman ZonaVibe brings together a heady blend of musical elements in an original and highly engaging ensemble. The vibesman behind many notable musicians and groups, Mike emerges from the tradition forged by Cal Tjader, Tito Puente, and the groups of Joe Cuba that placed the vibraphone at the heart of Latin music. His many years of playing in several of New York’s hottest salsa groups, and a natural affinity for Caribbean, African, and Brazilian rhythms combined with strong writing skills, a thoroughly developed jazz background, and a dynamic performing style underscore the performances of ZonaVibe.

Mike just returned from a pair of blockbuster performances with Black Sugar for many thousands of frenzied fans at the Toros y Salsa Festival in Dax France. He performed with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, directed by Oscar Hernandez, and legendary sonero Cheo Feliciano at Madison Square Garden in June 2008, and ZonaVibe was part of Central Park’s Harlem Meer concert series in July. ZonaVibe performed at the Festival Internacional on the island of Terciera in the Azores, and his salsa group, Vibe Caliente, played for Binghamton's First Night. Both of his groups will headline at the Trinidad & Tobago Steelpan and Jazz Festival this October.

His recordings of original music gained national attention and extensive airplay landing on several radio charts. From the start, the music Mike wrote and performed ranged from jazz, Latinjazz, Brazilian, fusion, and R&B. Mike Freeman & Spellbound’s 1985 self-titled debut recording (following a tour of Portugal, cosponsored by the Fulbright Foundation and the American Embassy) was eclipsed six years later by the highly successful “Street Shuffle” with Jeff Jenkins, Dave Stryker, Kip Reed, and Graham Hawthorne (now with Paul Simon). His next recording “Wiggle Stomp” reflects a deeper immersion in the Latin scene that began over ten years ago. With his lastest CD “In the Zone”, Mike takes that exploration to yet another level. He displays the considerable range of his marimba playing—along with the vibraphone—and his artistry and knowledge of bringing salsa forms into a Jazz context.

In addition to leading his own groups, Mike performs and records with eminent percussionist Ray Mantilla’s Good Vibrations Band (with Edy Martinez), that has toured Italy far and wide and recorded for Savant records. "Good Vibrations" was Jazzweek's top Latinjazz recording on radio, 2006; salsa singer Julio Salgado (from the Conga Kings, George Delgado and Charansalsa); Son Boricua (Jose Mangual Jr. and Jimmy Sabater); Mark Holen’s eclectic Latin blues band Zambomba; and Lucho Cueto’s all-star group Black Sugar.

Other credits include a Hurricane Katrina Benefit Concert that Mike organized and produced at Manhattan Plaza (two 45-floor towers of performing artists in midtown Manhattan where he lives) featuring the R&B of Bobby Harden and Chris Carter, the jazz of David Schnitter’s quartet, the solo piano of Amina Claudine Myers, and Mike’s own Latinjazz group with Ray Mantilla. Proceeds went to Tipitinas Foundation for New Orleans–area musicians and the Humane Society; performing with Little Johnny Rivero’s sexteto; Jorge Jimenez’s Timba Vibes (creating the group’s book); and the Latin Legends concert at Aaron Davis Hall with the Harbor Conservatory Latin Band, directed by Louis Bauzó.

Omaha-born and raised, Mike started his professional music career at thirteen, and by fifteen he was playing percussion in the Omaha Symphony Orchestra. He started learning drums at five and became interested in jazz music by listening to drummers Buddy Rich and Max Roach. In high school, he began studying vibraphone with veteran studio musician Bobby Christian, and soon after entered the DePaul University conservatory in Chicago, where he concentrated on the vibraphone and composition. During college, he began leading his own groups, performing at clubs, both in Chicago and Omaha, and working as a side musician. In New York, where he’s lived and worked since 1981, Mike studied with composer/arranger Hale Rood, who wrote for Louie Bellson, and attended the BMI composers workshop.

-ZV-