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An Interview with Jason Freeman

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Once again, ChopSaver users are just plain cool! Today we get a behind the scenes look into the hip hop/rap world. Yes, pop music is not just about drums and guitars! Do you love the Motown Sound, Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago, or Earth Wind and Fire? What would those bands be without horns? Heck, even Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones always tour with a horn section.

Together, trumpeters Jason Freeman and his brother Jerry are part of Hornz Unlimited and currently perform with Outkast and BigBoi among many others. They have performed on the Grammy’s, American Music Awards, The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel, David Letterman, The View, Jimmy Fallon and Good Morning America. Theirs is an inspiring story of hard work and brotherly love!

DG – When did you first think you might want to be a professional musician?

Jason – I don’t think I ever made a conscience decision to become a professional musician. It was really a natural progression from childhood. My mother taught my brother and me how to play the piano at an early age and after my brother sustained a knee injury in little league football, we were both steered towards the elementary school band and brass instruments. Before I could even get started playing the trumpet, my brother, who is 18 months older, as an elementary school kid was already advanced enough to play in a high school marching and concert band. It seemed like he practiced his horn day and night. And once I got started at the age of 8, I progressed very quickly and soon he and I both were elementary school kids playing with teenagers in high school.

Jerry, Alicia Keys & Jason Freeman
Jerry, Alicia Keys & Jason

It seemed that we were always being asked to play at school functions, weddings and events. So from my childhood playing the trumpet was just a part of my life. It sort of went hand-in-hand with my life and school. By the time I was out of college I began playing in a band and from that I got my first professional national recording artist gig with the 70”s/80’s funk band, “Cameo”.

DG – Were you and your brother close growing up?

Jason – My brother and I were extremely close growing up. We have literally been playing together for about 34 years – from elementary school to high school throughout college until now. We have always played in bands together. Jerry practiced so much as a kid I memorized all his school band songs before I ever touch a trumpet. I literally learned to play by only focusing on blowing air and buzzing my lips while my brother pressed the valves. Since I knew all the melodies and parts, I picked it up very quickly. He taught me how to play the trumpet and I will forever give him credit for that.

DG – What do you see yourself doing 5 years from now?

Jason – Five years from now I see myself continuing to work with recording artists like, Janelle Monae, Outkast and John Legend. I’m starting my own private party band this year so within 5 years I see us being very busy touring, having fun and playing good music for our clients.

Watch Jason and Jerry perform “Apple of my Eye” with Big Boi

DG – You travel and perform a lot – do you have a workout regimen?

Jason – I work in various different performing groups so I don’t workout and practice as much as I would like. My workout is constantly preparing and rehearsing for the next gig. I do try to get in some long tones and lip slurs whenever possible though.

DG – Your job looks very glamorous and exciting – tell us about the not-so glamorous side of it!

Jason – I would say the not so glamorous side of the work I do involves the infamous “Hurry Up and Wait” saga. Whether you’re performing live, shooting a music video or doing TV work it never fails…you’re always rushed to sit around and wait. Lol.

DG – What is your favorite/coolest venue you have ever played in?

Jason – The coolest venue I played was probably a venue in Los Angeles I played with Cameo. The stage is round and all the seating follows its shape. The cool part about it is when you’re on stage during your performance the stage is slowly rotating…very cool! (and I can’t even remember the name).

DG – What sort of things do you want to do that you haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?

Jason – That’s a great question…I’ve always wanted to have more of an impact on young musicians and band students. I used to do some volunteer work at my high school, Frederick Douglass High School in Atlanta GA. One day when I slow down I’d love to create some type of brass workshop or summer camp for kids.

DG – How do you stay ready to perform?

Jason – Well most of the practicing I do these days is in preparation for performances. So from a hip-hop rehearsal where I’m playing in a horn section and having to create our own licks to playing in a big band where we’re playing and reading charts, I’m always getting ready for the next gig and taking my work very seriously.

DG – Who is the most influential musician you have studied or worked with?

Jason – I got the opportunity of a lifetime in college to be a member of Clark Atlanta University’s Jazz Orchestra and during my years in college we got the opportunity to play a concert behind Dizzy Gillespie in 1991. Dizzy donated his musical library to our jazz orchestra and I got a chance to play his charts throughout college. Between those charts and that concert…that experience influenced me for the rest of my life!

DG – Who is the most influential musician you have NOT had the chance to study/work with yet?

Jason – The most influential musician I have not worked with is Wynton Marsalis. He’s got to be hands down the biggest influence on me as a musician.

DG – How does one get a job such as playing with a major act like Big Boi and some of the others you have worked with?

Jason – In 1998, I along with my brother formed a horn section and we called ourselves, Hornz Unlimited. We patterned ourselves after famous horn sections from the 70’s and 80’s like the Phoenix Horns and Tower of Power horns. Our trombone player at the time, Richard Owens, met some members of Organized Noize and soon after we got a call to do our very first recording with Outkast. It was a song called, “Spottieottiedopealicious” on the album entitled, “Aquemini”. After that album went multi-platinum we became a part of the Outkast sound and the official horn section for the famous rap duo. We have been blessed to record on every album they ever recorded after that.

Thirteen years later Big Boi of Outkast has released 2 solo albums in the last 3 years and our relationship with the Outkast sound is still going.

DG – Thanks Jason for your time and all the great insight. We at ChopSaver wish you and your brother nothing but continued success!