Musician ✴ Composer ✴ Bandleader ✴ Recording Artist ✴ Arranger ✴ Educator ✴ Producer
Photo by Ana Flores
With spirited soulful swing, vibraphonist and composer Mike Freeman performs mambo- and salsa-infused originals creating a distinct brand of jazz-Latin-blues. Dan McClaneghan of Allaboutjazz described Freeman as "masterful" and ranked among other top names of the instrument. His performances have taken him from North America and Europe to the Azores, Caribbean, and South America. His recordings of original music include tributes to Cal Tjader, Tito Puente, and NEA Jazz Master Bobby Hutcherson. Freeman's recordings have received national and international attention and extensive radio airplay, charting on jazz, contemporary jazz, and World Music radio.
Other endeavors include a two decade-long series of commissioned compositions and arrangements for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Percussion Scholarship Program. In 2014 he was commissioned by the late drummer/educator Ed Uribe to write arrangements for China's national percussion curriculum that were performed by members of the Shanghai Symphony at Shanghai Symphony Hall.
Performance highlights for Freeman as a leader include; the White Plains Jazz Festival in NY, the Fox Jazz Festival and Riverfront Jazz Festival in WI; the Trinidad & Tobago Steelpan & Jazz Festival; Festival Internacional, Terciera, Azores; Central Park’s Harlem Meer concert series in New York City; performing for Flood Relief in Des Moines, IA; Jazz on the Green in Omaha, NE; the Berks, Rehoboth Beach, Hennessy Greenwich Village, and JVC Newport (at Saratoga) jazz festivals; the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) convention, and an extensive tour of Portugal, cosponsored by the Fulbright Foundation and the American Embassy (USIA), where he received the Medal of the City of Guarda.
Mike Freeman received the Medal of the City, Guarda, Portugal, 1985
Freeman is also known for his work and recordings with several acclaimed Latin groups. The vibes behind the name, he worked extensively with legendary percussionist Ray Mantilla’s Good Vibrations Band (touring much of Italy and later becoming the group's music director), Ray's Tres Amigos, and as a regular guest with Space Station. Good Vibrations, Savant Records, was Jazzweek's top Latinjazz recording on radio in 2006. Freeman is also featured on Ray’s final two recordings High Voltage, and Rebirth both on Savant. He was part of Lucho Cueto’s all-star group Black Sugar, Estamos Azucar, 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. For eighteen years he was a mainstay of Jose Mangual Jr.’s Son Boricua featuring the late Jimmy Sabater (one of the architects of Boogaloo) that performed for large gatherings at salsa congresses in New York, L.A., and Atlanta. With Mangual, Freeman recorded Fabulosos 70's and Sabor y Swing. His vibe work can also be heard with Mark Holen’s eclectic Latin blues band Zambomba on Streching The Truth and Three Gold Coins. In the 1990s he created the book for, and performed with, Jorge Jimenez’s salsa group Timba Vibes. This was followed by a twenty-year association with salsa singer Julio Salgado. "Mis Pasos" was released in 2021. 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.
Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Mike Freeman started learning drums at age five and began playing professionally at age thirteen. At twelve, he began playing the vibraphone, and by fifteen, he was a percussionist for the Omaha Symphony under conductor Thomas Briccetti. During his last year of high school, he began traveling to Chicago to study with renowned percussionist and veteran studio musician Bobby Christian. He graduated DePaul University with a Bachelor of Music in composition with high honors in 1981. In New York, where he’s lived and worked since, he studied with composer/arranger Hale Rood (who wrote for Louie Bellson).
Joslyn Art Museum Omaha, NE
Family music: Freeman’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. Freeman’s paternal grandmother sang and played the organ and marimba. His maternal grandmother was a talented piano player in her youth. His father, Harry Freeman, worked his way through college playing the saxophone and clarinet.
"Latin jazz doesn't get any better than this"
–Mark Sullivan, Allaboutjazz
View/Download Mike Freeman Press Kit here
— 2018 —