Reviews

 

Oxford Town Weekly Magazine, Feb. 2003

FreeWorld releases Live from Memphis by James D. Mark 

Though the line-up has changed over time, FreeWorld celebrated 15 years of jazz-inspired jamming last year. The band's founding members - bass player Richard Cushing, saxophonist Herman Green, and drummer David Skypeck - continue to lead an evolving cast of guitarists, keyboardists and horn players as they expand on their mix of Latin-influenced, psychedelic jazz and improvisational rock. The band released their latest album Live from Memphis earlier this year.
The band's new disc captures FreeWorld at three of their frequent gigs at Memphis' Blues City Café. From the opening track "D-Up," a driving rocker, the band's songs alternate pop vocal arrangements with tight, technical passages and vast sections of soloing. On songs like "3-Point Landing," "Stay Loose," and "Better View," FreeWorld fall into sprawling laid-back funk grooves, while on "Come by the House," "Earth Mother," and "Stack" the band takes a more aggressive, James Brown-inspired approach.
"Wail Tales" has the band going from the spacey surrealism of the introduction to violent funk within the space of a seven-minute song, and "Be Here Now" features New Age drones and extended soloing complete with science fiction sound effects.  On "Mad as a Hatter," the band tries their hand at hip-hop with the help of MC Nokie T. The disc ends with the jazz workout "Sons & Daughters of the Sun." With guest musicians like keyboard players Ross Rice & Paul Brown, and trombonist/vocalist Prentice Wulff-Woesten joining the frantic playing of the FreeWorld regulars, Live from Memphis captures the spirited musicianship of some of Memphis' top performers.

Memphis Downtowner Magazine  Feb. 2003

On Stage With FreeWorld by Paulene Keller 

When Herman Green returned to Memphis in 1967 after 22 years in San Francisco and New York City, his reputation as a saxophone player was solidified. He had played with Count Basie, Miles Davis, and Lionel Hampton. His best friend was fellow Hampton band member, John Coltrane. "I was 26 years old when I began playing in Lionel Hampton's band, and I was only 28 years old when we played Carnegie Hall for the first time," says Green his eyes reliving the moment. "I knew all the great names had been there. They didn't have a curtain, and I looked out and didn't see an empty seat from the ceiling all the way to the floor. I jumped up and had to go backstage for a minute to settle myself down. I played 12 jazz solos that night."
In Memphis, Green formed a jazz band called the Green Machine in 1975. Green and a friend, trumpet player Nokie Taylor, frequently visited Memphis clubs and had heard bass player Richard Cushing and drummer David Skypeck perform at Lafayette's Corner. Trumpet player Willie Waldman had also caught their attention. 
One night, Green and Taylor walked in, pulled out their horns, and joined them for some jamming. The three young musicians began playing with Green in The Herman Green & Jimmy Ellis Review. In 1987, Cushing, Skypeck, and Waldman approached Green about starting a band since most of the Review lived out of town. Green saw raw talent and knew they needed to be exposed to veteran musicians.

"Back when I got into Lionel Hampton's band, I was young and looked around me and saw all these big guys, the giants of music," says Green. "The leader of the band called me aside one night and said, 'Don't be nervous; you're going to be all right. There are a few things you need to work on, but you'll get it worked out. ' So when I see [young musicians who need mentors], I want to pass it on."

But before Green would talk about forming a band, he had one prerequisite. "You have to be serious about the music," he told them, "because that's how I play." They agreed, and one day after rehearsal, band names were tossed around. Cushing and Waldman had previously played with a "garage band" named Free World (two words), so when Ellis unwittingly suggested "Free World," they reluctantly agreed. Not wanting to be misconstrued by the original band, Cushing insisted they spell it as one word with a capital "W."

Because Green had recorded with Isaac Hayes, Booker T. and the MGs, and others at Stax in the early days, his reputation opened doors for FreeWorld, but it also decreed the level of talent expected from the young band.

George Paul Eldridge, owner of Doe's Eat Place in 1991, wanted Memphis music played there. FreeWorld played its first gig at Doe's on New Year's Eve and hasn't missed one since. When Doe's changed to Blues City Cafe in 1993, FreeWorld didn't miss a beat, and today, they are still a Sunday night standard there.

The band's core group is David Skypeck on drums, Richard Cushing on bass/ vocals, Steve Dolan on trumpet/ vocals, Josh Degges on alto saxophone, Brian Overstreet on guitar, and Herman Green on tenor saxophone and flute. Sometimes, the band adds trombone player Prentice Wulff-Woesten, Ross Rice on keyboards, Nokie Taylor on trumpet, and Paul Brown on keyboards. If you ask how many people are in the band, Cushing responds, "What night are we talking about?"

When FreeWorld takes the stage, Green stands in the center with his saxophone and flute at his feet. On his right are Dolan, Degges, and Wulff-Woesten. On Green's left is Cushing, and behind him are Overstreet, Rice, and Skypeck. When they play the first notes, the 49-year age span disappears into a perfect language of instruments. Green moves around the stage listening carefully and nodding as he hears the quality he expects. Cushing begins singing "Earth Mother," the first song writ-ten for FreeWorld in 1987. If you wonder who the author is, look at Green, whose animation is telling the song's story.

Then it happens! The band breaks loose, improvising, creating their own sounds, and setting the audience on fire.

"Sometimes [Wulff-Woesten] gets so wound up that the house is in an uproar, and I join him in a dance routine that we do," says Green, smiling. "Then I'll do a thing with Brian, and we just keep a lot happening. That's where I get my energy. I'm 72 years old and the youngest member of the band."

Green's mother, father, grandmother, and aunt were musical inspirations for him. He was influenced early in life to follow his dream. The young men of FreeWorld are not so different from Green in their early passions for music. They are simply different names that began at different locations on a map.

Richard Cushing was two years old when his mother asked if he would like to have a baby brother or sister. He said, "I want a guitar." He got a little sister, but a few years later, he found a guitar under his brother's bed and adjusted the strings to make it a bass. After he finished college at Memphis State, he began playing locally, where he met Green.

Brian Overstreet tried to make a guitar out of rubber bands and a shoebox when he was eight years old, so his parents bought him a guitar from Sears, and he played it nonstop. Then, at 14, "it" happened! "Stevie Ray Vaughn was at Mud Island Amphitheater and came out in his big, cool cape and a hat with a feather," says Overstreet. "I said, 'That's what I've got to do; there is nothing else. ' The most fulfilling experience of my life was going to college where I was living and breathing music all day long. I wanted to make it where this was the only thing I could do!"

Steve Dolan played classical trumpet for eight years. He wanted to play jazz, but something was missing until he met Green. "He was really nervous standing next to me the first time playing," recalls Green. "He knew my background, and I really had to take him under my wing and talk to him. I told him, 'You don't know everything I know, and I used to sound worse than you, but some older people took me under their wings and graduated me up to where I am today. ' Now, he is a great trumpet player. I am very proud of him."

Josh Degges is one of the youngest band members. He remembers a third grade music class where he tried to play trumpet, but that didn't last long. "That is a painful instrument," he grimaces as Cushing and Overstreet break up laughing. "The way you have to put your mouth on it and blow ... Then they got me a saxophone, and that was it." Degges came to Memphis from Florida in 2000 for a summer of playing Memphis jazz, and he never went back; FreeWorld needed a saxophone player.

David Skypeck remembers growing up with a lot of music in his house. His brothers moved away and left a set of drums behind, and he started playing. Skypeck was just out of high school when Green invited him to play with his band. "I was born in Kansas City, but I was musically born in Memphis," says Skypeck. "Memphis is the epicenter of jazz, and I consider it a great honor to have grown up in that.

"Herman is a natural teacher, and he is teaching even when he's not teaching, just by the experience he conveys. He has exposed me to the best musicians in Memphis. I grew up playing with my musical heroes like Eric Gales, Jimmy King, and Phineas Newborn." So, when all this talent comes together, what does FreeWorld play? "We have been a band for 15 years, and I still can't tell you what kind of music we play," says Cushing. "If you have to nail it down to some kind of category, it would be funk rock with a jazz twist. We strive for musical conversation, and six people are talking at the same time."

"That conversation includes the audience," adds Overstreet, "and we feed off each other."

Audience "conversation" was an important part of FreeWorld's decision to record their latest CD live at Blues City Cafe. They know their energy and performance is at its best when they are playing live. The result is Live From Memphis, a spontaneous musical experience where the fans get to add to the mix.

"FreeWorld is the best gig in town," says Overstreet. "It's cool music, improvisational, with great musicians that can make up a song right on stage."

"We have the occasional train wreck with that," adds Cushing, laughing. "We would be any other band playing in any other hole in the wall, if it wasn't for Herman. He took us under his wing. Also, Blues City Cafe is all about keeping 'something real' on that corner. They brought in Herman, and he brought in us."

That "something real" has included musicians dropping by to listen and play with FreeWorld. The Doobie Brothers and Counting Crows sat in during Memphis In May. Artemus Pyle from the Lynyrd Skynyrd Band, and Jonathan Fishman and Page McConnell from Phish have played with the band. Then there are the jazz legends who have been there from the beginning.

"Calvin and Phineas Newborn, Nokie Taylor, and Herman loved us like sons, and they didn't have to," says Cushing.

"Music crosses all barriers," says Green. "When you play, there is no color, no age, no barriers."

Green doesn't play every gig with FreeWorld, but "Herman is always there, no matter if he's there or not," says Skypeck.

Green nods. "If word gets back to me that something isn't right, I don't hold my peace." Thanks to great musicians like Herman Green, FreeWorld will have the opportunity to also be remembered as great mentors of Memphis music.

 

Memphis Flyer, Music Notes, Jan. 17, 2003

Local Record Roundup by Chris Herrington

Though there are exceptions (Jimi Hendrix and not much else), I'm not much of a fan of improvisational rock music or live albums, for that matter. That confession out of the way, Live From Memphis (Swirldisc; Grade: B-), the sprawling 13-track, 79-minute platter from local jam stalwarts FreeWorld, does a pretty solid job accomplishing what it sets out to accomplish. Recorded last July over three nights at the band's familiar Beale haunt, Blues City Café, the five-piece band is joined by their mentor, local sax legend Herman Green, and a handful of helping hands, running through mostly originals that meld elements of rock, jazz, soul, funk, hip hop, and maybe even country (or at least Southern rock). How well all these elements cohere is in the ear of the beholder, I suppose. Me? My fave cut is the cover of the Band's "Ophelia," which puts FreeWorld's incontestable chops at the service of a good, tight song. Even the overlong solos seem locked into the song rather than departing from it.

 


 

THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL, Dec. 28, 2002
Hot Sounds: FreeWorld, 'Live from Memphis' by Bill Ellis

In Memphis's jam band family tree, FreeWorld is the enduring granddaddy of them all. Around since 1987, these brothers under one multicultural groove have been a consistently entertaining and informed voice on the local club scene.

Among the band's esteemed alumni are folks who have gone on to work with Snoop Doggy Dogg (engineer Dave Aron) and Banyan (trumpeter Willie Waldman), not to mention that one founding member, jazz great Herman Green, spent years playing with Lionel Hampton.

It was inevitable that FreeWorld finally got around to a live record, since the spontaneous forum of a concert is the group's true element. And after three studio albums, "Live from Memphis" - recorded in July at the band's favorite haunt, Blues City Cafe - is the natural fruition of the FreeWorld philosophy.

Joined by such wonderful guests as Green, Nokie Taylor, Ross Rice and Ann Peebles keyboardist Paul Brown, the five-member FreeWorld core - bassist Richard Cushing, guitarist Brian Overstreet, drummer David Skypeck, trumpeter/fluegelhorn player Steve Dolan and alto saxophonist Josh Degges - makes the most of its live experience, showing an instrumental prowess over 13 songs that also provides something of a career retrospective.

Highlights include a number of tunes from the 1999 album "Diversity," including Be Here Now, expanded here to almost 10 minutes. And among the three tracks from album No. 2, 1996's "You Are Here," are the Little Feat-meets-Steely Dan perfection of Better View and Green's funky exploration Earth Mother.

No FreeWorld gig would be complete without a few tasty covers, and fans get both a Stax-peppered rendition of the Band's Ophelia plus disc kicker Sons & Daughters of the Sun, a hot jazz jam written by Sun Ra Arkestra member Jothan Callins.

A special nod must go to co-producer Kevin Houston, who recorded the album with such sonic finesse, you'll feel like you're listening from the stage.

For "Live from Memphis," FreeWorld has two CD release parties, one tonight at the New Daisy Theatre - the band's 16th annual Holidaze Celebration - and one on Sunday at Blues City Cafe.


 

Memphis Flyer, Music Notes, December 19, 2002:
Local Beat by Andria Lisle

For longtime local band FreeWorld, 2002 is a lucky number: The group celebrated its 15th year together in October, but co-founder and bassist/vocalist Richard Cushing is happiest about Live From Memphis, the band's fourth album, which will be released later this month. "This is the CD I've always wanted to hear, personally," Cushing says. "FreeWorld is basically a live animal. We do around 280 gigs a year, so we decided to bring the studio to the gig and let it rip!"

Engineer Kevin Houston caught nine sets on tape last July, then the band whittled the recordings down to a solid hour of freewheeling rock and funky jazz. "You can fit a maximum of 80 minutes on a single CD, and this album is 79:01," Cushing crows happily. "We did one session without keyboards then brought Ross Rice in for a night and Paul Brown in for another night. The record isn't so 'produced.' We chose not to gear it to a radio-friendly format," he says, referring to the album's transcendent moments as "a trip to Insanityville."

It made perfect sense for the band to cut Live from Memphis at Blues City Café, their home for more than a decade. "Our first gig there was on New Year's Eve 1991," Cushing remembers. "And we've played there every Sunday since 1993. This gig has become an institution," he adds. "A lot of our regulars are downtown restaurant employees. When they get off work at midnight, they're ready to party! We also get a lot of tourists who have heard 'Mustang Sally' up and down the street. They catch us as they're rounding the corner, headed back to The Peabody. It keeps us from having to tour so much," Cushing says with a laugh, referring to Beale Street as "the cultural crossroads" of the planet. "The world comes to us."

FreeWorld takes the jam-band aesthetic to heart. "We feed off the crowd," Cushing says. "The more they dig it, the better we play." He attributes much of the band's popularity to musician Herman Green, who plays tenor saxophone and flute. "Herman has real star power," Cushing says. "There aren't many people my age who have had the opportunity to be mentored by the old guys. It's been a blessing: young hippie white guys jamming with these old be-bop monsters like Herman, [guitarist] Calvin Newborn, and [trumpet player] Nokie Taylor. Herman has imparted so much to me about life -- how to relate to people in a business sense and how to host a party," Cushing says in reference to the band's raucous Sunday-night gigs. "And Nokie taught us how to leave the crowd wanting more -- to walk offstage and leave them screaming."

"We've been lucky enough to have a multitude of high-caliber special guests play with us at Blues City," Cushing says, citing such musicians as Levon Helm, Ivan Neville, George Coleman, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Artimus Pyle, and Phish's Jonathan Fishman and Page McConnell, who have all sat in with FreeWorld at one time or another. "Fortunately for us, we've been around so long that we've become a medium-sized fish in this medium-sized pond," Cushing says demurely. But ask any musician around town, and they'll be quick to tell you that Cushing -- who works as a developmental neurogenetic researcher at UT by day -- is an integral part of the local music community, as FreeWorld's leader and as vice president of Memphis' chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

"We've gone through 55 band members in 15 years," Cushing says, steering the conversation back to the group. "But only one bass player!" Despite his joking nature, it's obvious that he takes FreeWorld's philosophy very seriously. "I've always considered music a higher plane of communication," he says. "And what we do on stage is hold a musical conversation amongst ourselves that we share with the audience. Dig it or don't, this is what we do."

Catch FreeWorld -- drummer David Skypeck, guitarist Brian Overstreet, trumpeter/lead vocalist Steve Dolan, and alto saxman Josh Degges, along with Green, Cushing, and auxiliary members Rice, Brown, and trombone player Prentice Wulff-Woesten -- live at the New Daisy Theatre on Saturday, December 28th, then again at the Blues City Café on Sunday, December 29th, for what Cushing calls "an album-release weekend to remember." For more information on FreeWorld and Live from Memphis, go to freeworldjams.com.


The Daily Mississippian, November 1, 2002:
Veteran rockers FreeWorld take the stage at Two Stick by Kristin Gravatt DM Staff Writer


FreeWorld has been rocking the music scene almost as long as many Ole Miss students have been alive.
They celebrated their 15th year in October with a new live CD and the distinction of becoming a "million dollar band" ? having made over $1 million dollars total from performances, merchandising, publishing and so on. Based in Memphis, the band frequents Oxford, their self-proclaimed second home. In September, they rocked places such as Forrester's and Bodega. They have also played at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house on campus. Saturday night, Oxford will invite the band back once again as they play at Two Stick. They also plan to play at Bodega Nov. 7. This five-member ensemble is trained in classical and jazz styles, and they get the crowd rocking with a mix of the usual guitar, bass, drums and vocals paired with a trumpet and saxophone. This mix enables the band to add a little flair to any students' night out.

In an e-mail interview with Richard Cushing, FreeWorld's lead vocalist, bassist, songwriter and manager, he praised the Oxford crowds.
"Both the college crowd and local scene of Oxford have always been great to us; very enthusiastic and respectful," he said.
And respect is what the band deserves.
While only two of the band members have been there for the entire 15 years, Richard Cushing and drummer David Skypeck (originally the doorman for the band), FreeWorld's lucky array of talent has been recognized and celebrated around the world. FreeWorld has been home to over 50 of Memphis' finest musicians over the past 15 years. Original member Herman Green still plays with the band on a semi-regular basis and is highly regarded in both Memphis and Oxford. In 2000, FreeWorld was voted reader's choice as one of the best local bands in the Memphis Flyer's "Best of Memphis." The band has also been on two European tours.

FreeWorld already has three CDs on the shelves ("FreeWorld" in 1994, "You Are Here" in 1996 and "Diversity" in 1999). In July, FreeWorld "brought the studio to the Blues City Cafe" for three separate performances to record material for their fourth, a live CD. They are currently in the process of mixing and editing the material and hope to have the disc out by late December. There is a CD release party weekend spectacular tentatively scheduled for Dec. 28 and 29 on Beale Street in Memphis.

The last time the band played in Oxford was Sept. 19 and 27, Music lovers had the opportunity to hear selections ranging from FreeWorld originals to Bob Marley, Funky Meters, Medeski Martin and Wood, the Grateful Dead and Steppenwolf. With approximately 150 songs on their official song list, fans do not have to worry about the band being too repetitive. "We only play maybe 30 on any given night," Cushing said, "so we have lots of options, with plenty of leeway to pick and choose whatever seems to be appropriate for any given situation." The concept of FreeWorld stems from the broad musical talents and tastes of each of its members, resulting in the playing of many different styles of music, Cushing said. Band favorites include selections from Steely Dan, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Phish, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and The Allman Brothers Band.

Formed in October 1987, the band grew from a common love of improvisation-oriented musicians to writing their own music for the crowds to jam to. Cushing said the band's main focus is and always will be "to have fun and share deep musical conversations that connect with the audience in unique and special ways." FreeWorld plays an average of almost 300 shows per year, and has played alongside such greats as Hot Tuna, Widespread Panic, Galactic, The Funky Meters, The North Mississippi Allstars and Merl Saunders.


THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL, May 15, 2000
Beale Street Music Festival Music Review by Bill Ellis

...The height of jamming, however, came in FreeWorld's eclectic set. The stalwart freaksters - with Memphis jazz giant Herman Green and Human Radio's versatile Ross Rice on stage - ventured from Steely Dan's cool pop to post-bop noise, and it all moved with an intense, funky freedom. Where most elder musicians stop challenging themselves, Green is our city's exemplar on how to stay sharp on one's instrument and creative at heart.


DigitalCity, Live Music Review, June, 1999
The tightest jam-band in Memphis.-- Nancy Apple 

FreeWorld can easily be called the tightest jam band in Memphis and it’s no wonder. They mesmerize audiences with their free-form funk/soul/fusion. Riding high on the buzz from their records, expect grooves that make you wanna move. They have a large following, and sometimes honorary lifetime member Herman Green adds to their horn section. This hip band should be headlining out on the H.O.R.D.E. tour.


JamBands.com South Regional Report, October, 1999:
Edited by Mike Jones and Chip Schramm

FreeWorld has been cutting deep grooves into the Memphis musical landscape for over 12 years. Though their lineup has changed with ebbing and flowing musical influences, FreeWorld's basic formula has remained the same. Through extensive live musical performances, FreeWorld has welded their tight jazz-inspired jamming to a healthy rotation of originals as well as classic covers.

During their early days, FreeWorld gained regional notoriety as a very solid jamband, mixing Grateful Dead, Stevie Wonder and traditional numbers with their own work. They have received mention from "Relix" and "Bass Player" magazines several times and more notably, have shared the stage with accomplished musicians of every genre. FreeWorld mixes Latin influence with their psychedelic jazz tincture so it should be no surprise that they held an impromptu jam session with Los Lobos in Knoxville several years back.

Bassist Richard Cushing and drummer David Skypeck are the remaining founding members, although they are joined by their mentor and fellow originator, Herman Green, on "Diversity." Green himself has played tenor saxophone and flute with John Coltrane and B.B. King, just to name a few. Brian Overstreet plays lead guitar on the album and his tightness with Cushing stems from frequent gigging as a duo called Kaleidoscope. The various lineup changes throughout the years have made it difficult for FreeWorld to tour extensively on a consistent basis, but it hasn't hampered their musical evolution, even twelve years down the road. The 1999 version of FreeWorld is still heavily rooted in improvisational rock, but the addition of several young brass players has invigorated their performances both live and in the studio. Prentice Wulff on trombone joins Steve Dolan on trumpet. Dolan also appears on Yamagata's first album, "Eveland". Both share vocals with Cushing, and Dolan isn't afraid to break it down and rap to the audience when he feels the need to cut loose. Ross Rice, talented organist and emerging studio guru, handles production chores on "Diversity." Rice also plays with Banyan, a project with Rob Wasserman that has toured nationally.

Mike Jones' review of the CD follows, and suffice it to say that Rice's contribution has helped to tighten the screws down on FreeWorld's sound. Their long instrumental jams are cut down to the meat of the material. Almost surprisingly, they fit 15 tracks on the disc. Ultimately, "Diversity" defines both the players and their attitude towards music. They have special guests throughout the album, and more interestingly, they have "party tracks" that include members of the Memphis community in the background as well as a group drum circle. Always entertaining, FreeWorld is well worth checking out. They can be found on the Internet at http://www.listen.to/freeworld

CD Review: - Diversity

This is a very funky CD. The overall sound of the disc to me sounds like the perfect mix of what would happen if Dave Matthews Band, The Allman Brothers Band, and Widespread Panic had a baby. This cd also reminds me of a little group out of New Orleans, The Dirty Dozen. 

I found the cd very listenable, makes you want to get up and groove around the house. You can clean you place up while listening to this like I did, I think it sped me up when I was actually cleaning but may have slowed me down when I was taking time out because the music was just that could. 

From start to finish this cd is awesome. It's like one long continuous jam, almost like the band is playing in your living room and playing just for you. The disc clocks in right around sixty-eight minutes so that's one long jam! 

"Boogie Finger" would have to be my favorite song of the cd. When I introduce this band to someone who hasn't heard them before, I think that track would be the one I would let them hear first simply because it sums up the band's sound while keeping a nice hook so that the person will remember them the next time they hear the song. There seems to be a hidden track within the last song on the disc, simply instrumental sounds. Very cool track. Chip summed this group up better than I can. I have yet to see the band live but plan on making it to Memphis soon to check them out.


Memphis Flyer, Music Notes, August 12 - 18, 1999:
New Stuff In The Bins by Mark Jordan

In its dozen years or so of existence, FreeWorld has gone through more roster changes than guitar strings. But while the faces have changed, the band has still managed to consistently improve, something that is especially evident on their recordings. FreeWorld's latest, Diversity, is the best of the three discs the band has cut so far.

The version of FreeWorld heard here features Steve Dolan on vocals, trumpet, flugelhorn, musette, and shaker; Brian Overstreet on guitars and vocals; and Prentice Wulff-Woesten on vocals and trombone. And as always, there is Richard Cushing on bass, guitars, and vocals, and David Skypeck on drums and percussion. Another original FreeWorlder and the band's mentor Herman Green -- identified on the album's liner notes as "the Man" -- is also featured prominently.

For a band that has made its reputation on its relentless live playing schedule, FreeWorld have at times been inexplicably stiff on disc. That seems to be a thing of the past with Diversity -- thanks, I'm sure, to Ross Rice's increasingly sure touch as producer. With lots of guest appearances and between song count-outs and banter preserved on disc, Diversity has the feel of a party but without sacrificing any of the band's trademark tightness.

FreeWorld, in case you didn't know, trade in white funk. You know the genre --
lots of scratchy guitar, syncopated drum beats, punchy horns, and plenty of jams. Bands such as Galactic and Gran Torino have made the sound popular with college kids, but FreeWorld was there first. And Diversity shows off the band's best songs yet, with the catchy "D-Up" being a particular favorite. As for the jams, instead of focusing on noodling that is best appreciated live, this time out the band thankfully reined it to make room for the 15 quality compositions.


BASS PLAYER, February, 1997:
Bp Recommends

FreeWorld, You Are Here (Real Beale, Box 12249, Memphis, TN 38182; (901) 278-2038)
Bassist: Richard Cushing,Instrument: Modulus Guitars 5-string
FreeWorld formerly seen in: Indie City

Richard Cushing smokes! His busy-yet-tight, Rocco-like lines burn all over this great-sounding disc by the Memphis band, which sounds like a cross between T.O.P. and Little Feat. (KC)

 


RELIX, music for the mind, December 1996:
Too New To Be Known, by Mick Skidmore

Memphis, Tennessee's FreeWorld is one of the sharpest and most powerful blues/rock/jazz ensembles I've had the pleasure of listening to these past couple of years. The band is back with a new album, You Are Here (Real Beale Records). This effort is leaps and bounds better than its first, thanks in part to a superb production job by noted producer Jim Gaines (Blues Traveler, Santana et al). Musically, these guys have grown considerably as this album amply evidences. Overall, there's a sharper focus and a more cohesive sound, but the group hasn't lost its musical vitality and passion in the process. Best cuts here are the jaunty "Better View," the grittier "Bloodshot Eyes" and the passionate ballad "Thought You'd Agree." This is a band that's headed for better things if there's any justice in the world. (P O Box 12249, Memphis, TN 38182-0249)

 


BLUESPEAK, December, 1996:
Band on the verge of 'major' jump By Norm Shaw

When FreeWorld hits it big - and that could be in the very near future - it's almost inevitable someone will hit the group with an "overnight sensation" tag. But as fans of the band know, FreeWorld isn't an overnight anything. For eight years, the band has toiled in the bars, clubs and social halls of the Mid-South. And after eight tough years, FreeWorld stands poised to breakout to the next level.
"Things are happening in a major way," says Richard Cushing, the only member of the band who has been there since the beginning. "There are no major (labels) biting at our heals just yet, but that shouldn't be too far off."

The buzz FreeWorld is creating in national publications such as BIllboard and Bass Player comes from the band's latest release You Are Here. Recorded in Memphis at 315 Beale with legendary producer Jim Gaines, You Are Here is probably the best local release of the year. Funky grooves, Stax-style horns and organ and strong vocals add up to a first-class release. Cushing, who plays bass in the band, says sales of the self-released disc have been strong.
"Right now, the $15 we get for a CD goes to us, and that's nice," Cushing says. "If we signed with somebody, we'd get a salary, but we would probably kiss the publishing royalties goodbye. But there's trade offs. We'd get national airplay and quit our jobs, but..." Cushing's voice trails off. He is leery of the music business. He says the conflict between art and business is what makes the music industry somewhat scary. For Cushing and his bandmates - Steve Dolan, Parker Card, David Skypeck, Brian Overstreet and Art Edmaiston - the music remains the most important thing. Quitting their day jobs would be nice, though, Cushing adds.

Your Are Here is a major step toward that goal. Cushing says there are two elements that made You Are Here better than the band's first effort. First, FreeWorld is more stable than it has ever been. By his own count, Cushing says there have been almost 100 different people in the band over the years. Skypeck, the drummer, is second in seniority. He was first the band's doorman, then drummer. "This has been the lineup for one year, and that's more stable that it has ever been," Cushing says. "Everybody seems to be really happy. But I keep them real busy, playing four or five nights a week and rehearsing one other night. We get Monday nights off, that's it. You have to fight the burnout thing."

The second element of band's success on You Are Here is producer Jim Gaines.

"All hail the mighty Gaines," Cushing says with a laugh. "When we had the first meetings about making this record, we talked about Ross Rice being the producer. I joked that would be great, unless we could get Jim Gaines, ha ha." The next day, someone asked Cushing if he had called Gaines. Cushing decided it couldn't hurt. He called the studio office at 315 Beale and asked for Gaines. Cushing said he figured he'd just leave a message, but a minute later he was talking to the man best known for producing records by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, Journey, Huey Lewis, Steve Miller and a host of others. A meeting was set up, and in the end Gaines said yes. "It's true what they say. He does have million dollar ears," Cushing says. "He wasn't real heavy-handed in the studio. It was more like, 'Move the bridge here' or 'Add a chorus here.' It was so obvious after he said it. And he was really subtle. We called him the master of the vibe. He kept everybody in the studio calm. Usually in the studio, FreeWorld is way too many chiefs and no Indians. He was the really big chief." Cushing says if he had a choice of any producer in the world to work with the band, it would have been Gaines. Cushing says he was surprised how low key and non-Hollywood Gaines is. "The only way you could tell he was really different in any way was that everyday he came in another $150 pair of boots," Cushing says with a laugh.

The days of $150 boots for FreeWorld may not be far off. With its ability to spin off into long jams and change musical directions at the drop of a drumstick, FreeWorld fit into what Cushing calls the "H.O.R.D.E. generation," which includes such bands as Blues Traveler, Dave Matthews and Phish. In fact, the night before the interview, two members of Phish had come down to Beale to hear FreeWorld, with drummer John Fishman sitting in with the band in the third set.

"He said it was the best experience he ever had sitting in with people he didn't know," Cushing says with pride. "He was so impressed he left us a bunch of backstage passes."

If everything continues as it's going, it may not be too long before FreeWorld is leaving backstage passes for some other aspiring band.

 


NORTHWEST ARKANSAS TIMES, Sunday, November 10, 1996:
Living by Bethany Anderson

Free World, "You Are Here," Real Beale Records

The cool thing about Free World is that they're going to be here next weekend at George's Majestic. I've heard nothing but great things about this band from Memphis, so when I got the CD I was ready to be primed for the experience next week.

I wasn't disappointed. The best way to describe the sound of Free World would be to say they're kind of a Jupiter PunkinSpirits kind of thing.

I'm ready to dance and I feel the need to highly and strongly recommend that you at least check out the happy hour show this Friday. You will be kicking yourself six kinds of black and blue if you don't grab the opportunity to see the group on their way up. Part horns and danceable tunes, part laidback Dave Matthews-esque cuts, there is no way you can hate this disc. I've been dancing around the newsroom and even formed an impromptu conga line during one of the tunes.

My favorites would have to be the easy yet infectious melody of "Better View," the wry "High Maintenance Woman," the Hammond-filled "Thought You'd Agree," the percussion-pumped, riff-packed, near Stevie Ray feel of "Brave Enough," and the wild "Hangin' Around." I also liked the jam-filled sound of "Wail Tales." All I can really say is this: Expect to see me at George's dancing my, uh, feet of next weekend.

 


ALTERNATIVE MONKEY, The BX12 Music Fatty 9/26-10/3/96
These Boys Appear To Be On To Something

FreeWorld releases a great new disc: "You Are Here"; show Sat.

Fusing elements of rock, soul and Psychedelic music FreeWorld creates a sound that is as unique and diversified as each of its members. Every performance takes on its own identity as the musicians' indulge themselves in the improvisational spontaneity that the combination of the moment, music, and audience provides. This interaction is the essence of the FreeWorld experience.

Formed in 1987 (they used to play at Syd & Harry's as the Moonlight Syncopaters), the FreeWorld concept has grown and evolved into the present ensemble consisting of Richard Cushing on bass and vocals, Art Edmaiston on Sax and vocals, Parker Card on keys and vocals, David Skypeck on drums, Brian Overstreet on guitar, and Steve Dolan on trumpet, with very special guests such as saxophonist/flutist Herman Green and a host of others keeping each FreeWorld experience fresh and uniquely original. They've released a killer CD which should surprise many that they capture so much of the brilliance of their live show onto disc. When they play at Larry's Saturday night to celebrate its' release, a big large time is guaranteed to be had by all, included those who are long-time devoted dancees of the band and those just lucky enough to be there.

I like the whole thing, but stand-outs are definitely "Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow." "Bloodshot Eyes," and "Got To Get Away." Put together stellar musicans and stellar songs and you have a stellar album. Add to the mix what this disc has, one of the finest producers around these parts in Jim Gaines, and there's a disc you should own. -- Chico Harris

 


BLUESPEAK, October, 1996:

You Are Here, FreeWorld, Real Beale Records

Where not necessarily a blues band, local favorites FreeWorld have played on Beale Street enough to learn a thing or two about a blues groove. The band's new release, produced by Jim Gaines, positions FreeWorld to take a step to national exposure.

You Are Here gets its biggest boost from its horn section. The Stax-esque work from Steve Dolan and Art Edmaiston takes FreeWorld out of the "jam band" camp and places them squarely in Memphis. Vocalist Parker Card, guitarist Brian Overstreet, bassist Richard Cushing and drummer David Skypeck round out the band. Together, they create a tight sound that is radio friendly.

Much of that credit must be given to Gaines, best known for his work with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana and countless others. Gaines adds a very professional touch to You Are Here. While bestknown for his work with guitarists, he proves himself equally good with a horn section. Be sure and check out FreeWorld on Beale when you get a chance. You won't be disappointed. - Norm Shaw

 


THE MEMPHIS FLYER, September 5-11,1996
Turn Up That Noise! An eclectic survey of recent recordings.

FreeWorld, You Are Here, (Real Beale)g has allowed them to fine-tune the tracks on this CD, and seasoned producer Jim Gaines has done a superlative job of capturing the raw energy that this band generates live on You Are Here.

This release is a veritable kaleidoscope of semi-vintage sounds, including the bluesy Allman Brothers rhythm and rambling guitar of the opening track, the Todd Rundgren-ish pop ballad "Bloodshot Eyes," and the quirky jazz riffs of "High Maintenance Woman" (which owes more than a passing nod to the late, great Frank Zappa). There's even a Stax-style instrumental, with some very classy Hammond organ from new lead vocalist Parker Card.

But FreeWorld's forte is getting the funk out, and that's precisely what they do on their best tracks - "Wail Tales," a horn-propelled smoker topped off by a mini-rap, which is absolutely amazing, as in the Santana-flavored "Got to Get Away." My choice track, "Earth Mother," is an old favorite penned by jazz-legend and intermittent band-member Herman Green, which reminds me of a cross between Traffic and George Clinton, with its ecstatic Urgroove, flute-player-on-acid vibe, and exuberant shouted chorus.

Hopefully You Are Here will bring FreeWorld some big-label recognition, and turn the rest of the country on to one of Memphis' finest live bands. - Lisa Lumb

 


THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL, Memphis, Saturday, August 31, 1996:
Red Hot

You Are Here, FreeWorld, Real Beale Records, ***

As any self-respecting Memphis band knows, and that includes the groove-athon FreeWorld, horns save the day. Be adding stacks of Stax to their mind-expanding party jams, FreeWorld negates all Grateful Dead comparisons. When FreeWorld ups the funk quotient, they really smoke, as on Brave Enough which is a booty-bumping distillation of the Brothers Johnson and their forgotten funk bravura. Local jazz legend and former FreeWorld member Herman Green adds flute, sax, and vocals to a trippy cover of his tune Earth Mother. The other featured guest is Memphis studio godhead Jim Gaines, whose impeccable production gives FreeWorld both room to roam and a radio-ready sheen.

 


INDEPENDENT MEMPHIS MUSICIAN, Summer, 1996:
Rising Stars

FreeWorld, You Are Here, (Real Beale Records)

FreeWorld's second release shows enough promise to carry this popular Memphis band into the national spotlight. Heavily influenced by the sound of Santana, the band engaged his royal grooviness Jim Gaines himself (Santana, Blues Traveler, Stevie Ray Vaughan) to produce. The result is magic on tape that has to be heard. There's a fresh structure to the sound here that's less improvisational than what we're used to, but it's not at all stiff - if just results in a much more interesting FreeWorld. With only two original members returning from their inaugural release, and guest appearances from Herman Green, the group still combines elements of jazz, psychedelia, Latin music and a whole lot of funk - we're talking serious Memphis butt-shaking boogie of P-Funk, the guitar licks of Santana, a bit of Tower of Power here, some Booker T. B-3 organ there, and some sweet vocals from Parker Card and Richard Cushing - it all adds up to perhaps the strongest release from a local band in a blue moon. It almost doesn't even seem right to call this a "local" release. Best cuts include "Bloodshot Eyes," "The Closer We Get To The Edge The Better The View," and an instrumental tribute to the Memphis Sound. If karma continues to work for this band, they'll be headlining next years H.O.R.D.E. Fest. Bet on it. - Nancy Apple

 


BILLBOARD, October 22, 1994:
Continental Drift, Unsigned Artists and Regional News, Edited by Melinda Newman

Memphis: When people think of Memphis as the crossroads of American music, images of blues, soul, and early rock'n'roll emerge. One of the River City's most popular bands since 1987 has been FreeWorld, a quintet that blends Memphis attitude with jazz, funk, psychedelia, and Latin music. The band's freewheeling musical range can be attributed to sax/flautist Herman Green (who played with John Coltraine, B.B. King, and Lionel Hampton, among others), Puerto Rican percussionist "Rico" Lopez, and three self-described "home-grown Stax-worshipping hippies," bassist Richard Cushing, lead guitarist Chuck Sullivan, and David Skypeck. The band has successfully toured Europe and shared stages with Los Lobos, the late Frank Zappa, Col. Bruce Hampton, Widespread Panic, and many others. FreeWorld has just released its self-titled debut CD, produced by Dan Pfeifer, on Hair Farmer records. It has been getting steady airplay on the various regional jazz (particularly the moody track "Kelli") and open-format community radio stations. Typically, local rock radio has been indifferent toward adding any track despite the band's strong following. Fans of extensive jazzy Allman-esque freeform instrumental jams should check out the impressive 10-minute live in the studio "Dorian." At times, the music on "FreeWorld" recalls early Santana and Tower of Power. "Our House Is Burning" and "Cold Flippin'" are appealing '70s-style horn-driven funk rockers, while "Smoke the Prophets" is an enticing ska rave-up. "Even though no two songs are stylistically the same, they all sound like they are performed by the same band and written by the same songwriters," says Cushing. "The whole thing becomes part Grateful Dead, part straight jazz, part funk, ska, and pop." Rick Clark

 


SHAKE, RATTLE & ROLL, July, 1994:
What's Shakin', New Releases

FreeWorld's much-delayed debut album finally hits the streets this month, following an album release party at the New Daisy Theatre on Friday, July 8. I've been treated to a preview of this disc and it's one of the strongest local projects in many a moon. There are the requisite handful of neo-Dead, Steve Miller-ish tunes for the Gen X tie-dye crowd to groove on, but my favorite moments occur during the longer, improvisational pieces, when these four hippies (spiritually guided by master jazz saxophonist Herman Green) stretch out and take off into the freeform stratosphere. After the release party, the CD will be available at Cat's Music in Midtown. - CPJ Mooney

Concert Beat

Beale was also the place for everyone from "Take Me To The River" Teenie Hodges to "Take Me To The Cleaners" music industry vipers on July 8 when FreeWorld hit the New Daisy Theatre to celebrate their new CD release. The sound was massive, the lights were awesome, the merchandise was abundant: it all had the feel of a mini-H.O.R.D.E. fest. These guys went all out and even had Rockingchair Recording Studios record the event. FreeWorld reigns as Memphis' tie-dyed kings and have cornered the market on the '70s Santana meets Zappa-influenced sound.

 


RELIX, Music for the Mind, Volume 22, No. 2:
Too New To Be Known by Mick Skidmore

FreeWorld is a band from Memphis that breaks tradition with the sound that is normally associated with that city. Improvisational jazz-rock is melded together effortlessly with elements as varied as reggae, Latin and even psychedelia in the band's self-titled CD. The members of this quintet are no musical slouches. They have a savvy, funky sound that show they can jam with the best of them, while still retaining strong melodic elements. In "Sunshine," they show some soulful sensibilities, and they stretch out musically in the ten-minute "Dorian." The latter displays the band's immense instrumental capabilities and is like a fusion of the Grateful Dead and John Coltrane. The soloing from hornplayer/flautist Herman Green and guitarist Chuck Sullivan is breath taking. This is jazz-rock for the H.O.R.D.E. generation. Don't pass it up.

 


THE COMMERCIAL APPEAL, JULY 23, 1994:
Recordings by Larry Nager

Freeworld, Hair Farmer Records ***

Featuring the indefatigable Herman Green, one of Beale's true unsung heroes, on sax, Freeworld is a local band that, if there was any justice, would be headlining the H.O.R.D.E. tour. Take the freeform approach of the Grateful Dead, mix in a little George Clinton P-Funk, a touch of Tower of Power soul-jazz (thanks to the stellar horn section of Green, Mickey Gregory, Jeff Huddleston and Nokie Taylor) and even a bit of reggae. And unlike too many other local bands who seem to get lost between the stage and the studio, Freeworld's self-titled album brings the band's many delights home intact. The nine-song disc never loses momentum, whether it's the caffeinated ska of Smoke the Prophets or thespacy improvisations of Dorian. It may not be the coolest or the trendiest, but "Freeworld" is the most thoroughly enjoyable local rock project this year.


THE ENTERTAINMENT GUIDE - HOLIDAZE, ONE 1994:
Nightflying

FreeWorld Hair Farmer

Got to get funky every now and then, right y'all? Well this Memphis outfit can pop that bass with the best of 'em. Quite jazzy at times, this is a tasty little concoction here. It's got a Santana-like current running through it at the same time that it reflects all the straight-ahead funk groups you ever dug. High energy, yet smooth, this disc will take you back a quick decade and a half and make you want to jump up and boogie on down.

 


BASS PLAYER, Volume 6, Number 4:
Indie City by Karl Coryat

... FreeWorld (Hair Farmer, Box 12249, Memphis, TN, 38182): Richard Cushing's funky spicy bass lines heat up this horn-heavy R&B/fusion outfit - he grooves hard.

 


Deinstag, 19 Oktober, 1993:
Konzert mit der Band "FreeWorld"in Immeldorf

Erbarmungslose Technik Altemlose Improvisationen - Notbestzung heizte ein

IMMELDORF - Alle Damme brechen. Eine wahre Notenflut ergiebt sich auf das nichtsahnende Ohr, wenn die vier Musiker der Formation "FreeWorld" zu den Instrumenten greifen. In verkleinerter Besetzung mubten sie am vergangenen Samstag antreten. Der Saxophonist Herman W. Green war unerwartet erkrankt, Leopoldo L. Lopez in Amerika zuruck geblieben. Als Vertretung nubte der Manager der Band, Herbert Siedler, zur Percussion greifen.

Doch die Band lieferte trotz dieser ungunstigen Bedingungen einen bravourosen Auftritt. Virtuos beherschen die vier Vielspieler ihre Instrumente und prasentieren ein filigranes, fein gewirktes Flechtwerk aus Soul, Reggae und Blues. Atemlos hasten sie durch die Kompositionen, eine unruhige Mischung aus Coverversionen und eigenen Songs: furiose Hocheschwindigkeitsmusik.

Kaum Ruhepunkte sind da auszumachen, eine erbarmungslose Motorik treibt die Stucke vorwarts, feste Schemata werden unaufhorlich variiert. Gitarrist Charles S. Sullivan schwingt sich auf zu ausgedehnten solistischen Hohenflugen, David B Skypeck handhabt sein spartanischesDrumset mit vollendeter Konnerschaft, Richard C. Cushing ekstatische Basslaufe und das bunte Percussionfeuerwerk Herbert Siedlers runden das Bild ab.

Doch dasPublikum tobte. Anfanglich etwas reserviert, verfolget manzunachst aufmerksam die eindruchsvollen Technikkunststuckchen,verlor dann aber nach und nach doch alle Hemmungen und warf sich verzuckt ins Tanzvergnugen. Auch einige Zugaben waren naturlich noch fallig.

Schlieblich sei nochangemerkt, dab "FreeWorld" selbstverstandlich nichtnur das frankischePublikum beglucken wollen. Sie befinden sichzur Zeit auf einer Clubtournee durch ganz Deutschland. Das nachste Mal ist die Formation in Murnberg am Freitag, 22 Oktober, im Shamrock zu horen. Michael Meyer


Special thanks to Key Stroking Web Designs for their original compilation of some these reviews.