Mike Freeman ZonaVibe
Musician - composer - band leader - recording artist - arranger - educator - producer
The Vibesman behind many notable musicians and groups, Mike Freeman brews up a heady blend of musical elements. Richly melodic and rhythmically intense, this fiery mix fuels spirited interplay among the group’s top-notch musicians. From North America and Europe, to the Azores, Caribbean, and South America, his music ignites audiences at festivals, concert halls, colleges and clubs. Strong writing skills, a thoroughly developed jazz background, and a dynamic performing style underscore Mike’s performances.
High-profile shows for Mike as a leader include: the Trinidad & Tobago Steelpan & Jazz Festival; Festival Internacional (Terciera, Azores); Central Park’s Harlem Meer concert series in New York City; and several First Night celebrations. Other past performance highlights and endeavors include producing Band Together, a Hurricane Katrina Benefit Concert for Tipitinas Foundation benefiting New Orleans–area musicians and the Humane Society; performing for Flood Relief in Des Moines, Iowa; Joslyn Art Museum’s Jazz on the Green in Omaha, NE; Berks, Rehoboth Beach, Hennessy Greenwich Village, and JVC Newport (at Saratoga) jazz festivals as well as an extensive tour of Portugal, cosponsored by the Fulbright Foundation and the American Embassy.
Mike received the medal of the city of Guarda, Portugal
His recordings of
original music (ranging from jazz, Latinjazz,
salsa, Brazilian, fusion, and R&B) have gained national
and international attention along with extensive radio
airplay charting on jazz, contemporary jazz, and World
music radio. Mike Freeman & Spellbound's 1985
self-titled debut recording was followed by the success of
Street Shuffle. His next recording Wiggle
Stomp reflects a deeper immersion into the Latin music
scene that, for him, began in the mid 1990s. On In the
Zone, Mike displays his knowledge of bringing salsa
forms into a jazz context. The Vibesman 2012,
takes that exploration further, adding saxophone and flute
to the group, with a set of music that has captured the
attention of many.
Mike is also known for his work with Lucho Cueto’s all-star group Black Sugar, which gave blockbuster performances for thousands at the Toros Y Salsa Festival in Dax, France, and at the Festival Internacional de Salsa in Lima, Peru. The vibes behind the name, Mike has worked extensively with acclaimed percussionist Ray Mantilla’s Good Vibrations Band (with pianist Edy Martinez), which has toured Italy far and wide. Good Vibrations (Savant Records) was Jazzweek's top Latinjazz recording on radio, 2006. Mike is currently in production on a co-led recording project with salsa singer Julio Salgado (from the Conga Kings) and worked frequently with Son Boricua (with Jose Mangual Jr. and the late Jimmy Sabater), which performed for large gatherings at Salsa Congress’s in New York, L.A., and Atlanta. Jose Mangual Jr.'s Boricua Blues has now formed after Jimmy's passing, and Mike continues to perform with the group. His vibe work can also be heard with Mark Holen’s eclectic Latin blues band Zambomba. He performed with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra (directed by Oscar Hernandez) at Madison Square Garden and with Willie Villegas's Joe Cuba Sextet for New Jersey's salsa congress both with legendary sonero Cheo Feliciano.
Master classes and arranging: Florida International U., New York University and the Berklee College of Music, among others, have hosted Mike as a guest artist/clinician. His music arranged for big band has been a successful component of his performances with jazz department ensembles. Mike created the book for Jorge Jimenez’s group Timba Vibes and wrote a series (spanning several years) of commissioned compositions and arrangements for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Percussion Scholarship Program.
Music in the family: Mike’s grandfather was a drummer and leader of Ron Freeman and the Melody Masters, a popular band that was heard on the radio in the Midwest. Neal Hefti played in his band before becoming famous in California. Mike’s paternal grandmother sang and played the organ and marimba. His maternal grandmother was a talented piano player in her youth. Mike’s father, Harry Freeman, worked his way through college playing the saxophone.
Joslyn Art Museum Omaha, NE
Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Mike Freeman began playing professionally at the age of thirteen. He started learning drums at five and became interested in jazz music by listening to drummers Buddy Rich and Max Roach. He played in local rock bands and a big band called Resurrected Swing that’s still in existence today. At twelve, he began playing the vibraphone, and by fifteen, he was a percussionist for the Omaha Symphony. He also gave lessons at the local music store. During his last year of high school, he began traveling to Chicago to study with renowned percussionist and veteran studio musician Bobby Christian. Just before entering the School of Music at DePaul University in Chicago, Mike started to concentrate on the vibraphone and composition. In college, he began leading his own groups, performing at clubs, both in Chicago and Omaha, and working as a side musician. At DePaul, he studied with jazz pianist Alan Swain and saxophonist Tom Hilliard, and received a Bachelor of Music (composition) with high honors in 1981. 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.
"...an intoxicating Latin Jazz gem" —Chip Boaz, Latin Jazz Corner
— 2010 —