I have written three nonfiction books and edited an anthology of music criticism.
Ugly Beauty: Jazz in the 21st Century (Zero Books, 2022)
Available physically and digitally from Amazon.
“Phil Freeman has always been a free-thinking jazz critic, wary of majority opinion and allergic to conventional wisdom. In Ugly Beauty he applies that sensibility to a series of dispatches from a fast-moving scene, portraying some of the most vibrant artists of our time. A welcome addition to the growing literature around 21st century improvised music, with a crucial awareness of its relationship to a broader culture.” — Nate Chinen, author of Playing Changes: Jazz For the New Century
“Freeman composes a much-needed text pointing towards the futures of an important artform while making connections to its origins and histories over a century. He doesn’t only touch on the telling of a jazz story in the 21st century, but he also prescribes a soundtrack within which to situate a time in history. His register of writing flows with rhythm, and this is a definite must get!” —Nduduzo Makhathini, improviser, healer and scholar from South Africa
“Featuring original contributions from today’s leading music critics, Marooned is a revealing snapshot of the current state of pop music criticism. A follow-up and homage to Greil Marcus‘s rock ‘n’ roll classic, Stranded, Marooned asks the same question of a new generation: what album would you bring to a desert island, and why?”
This book includes essays by Matt Ashare, Tom Breihan, Daphne Carr, Jeff Chang, Ian Christe, Kandia Crazy Horse, John Darnielle, Laina Dawes, Geeta Dayal, Rob Harvilla, Michaelangelo Matos, Anthony Miccio, Dave Queen, Ned Raggett, Simon Reynolds, Scott Seward, Greg Tate, Derek Taylor, and Douglas Wolk, plus a foreword by Greil Marcus.
Sound Levels: Profiles in American Music 2002-2009 (Lulu.com, 2010)
In print and available from Lulu.com.
“What does the artist owe his audience? Must he speak for his race or nation, or can he express himself with true individuality? Where is the line between the onstage and offstage personas? Through in-depth profiles of some of American music’s most fascinating performers, journalist and critic Phil Freeman explores these questions and many others.”
This book anthologizes a number of profiles I wrote for Global Rhythm, Jazziz, Metal Edge, Signal to Noise, and The Wire. Included are interviews with Tom Waits, David Thomas of Pere Ubu, Mike Patton, the Melvins, Sunn O))), Oxbow, Ornette Coleman, Noah Howard, Bill Dixon, Serj Tankian, the Mars Volta, Calle 13 and Café Tacuba.
Running the Voodoo Down: The Electric Music of Miles Davis (Backbeat, 2005)
In print and available from Amazon.
“Running the Voodoo Down digs deep into Miles Davis‘s electric music, reminding us that this period encompassed the entire second half of the trumpeter’s career, from 1967 until his death in 1991. Running the Voodoo Down examines this quarter-century of music in detail and discusses its importance to Davis’s career and to the whole of American music and culture. Freeman places Davis’s controversial 1960s and ’70s albums in a broader context than earlier critics have done, encouraging us to hear Miles’s music alongside the work of Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, and the trumpeter’s own sidemen. Running the Voodoo Down reactivates the long-running debate surrounding this important and frequently misunderstood music, and offers longtime jazz fans and new listeners alike unexpected insights into Davis’s unique genius.”
In this book, I explored the music Miles Davis made between 1968 (the year he first employed electric instruments) and his death in 1991, as well as the lasting impact of this work on musicians who played in his bands, and those who came after him.
New York Is Now!: The New Wave of Free Jazz (The Telegraph Company, 2001)
Out of print, but available directly from the author.
“For nearly twenty years, often with little or no recognition, a community of New York musicians has been creating new music in the tradition of pioneers such as Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and John Coltrane, but which is uniquely their own. During the 1990s, free jazz broke through to an entirely new audience of alternative rock listeners, introducing them to the extraordinarily vital music that is being created in and around New York City. Rejuvenated by the interest and support of this new audience, free jazz is experiencing a renaissance.”
In this book, I sought to document a segment of the free jazz scene in New York circa the turn of the millennium. It includes profiles of saxophonist David S. Ware, pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker, trumpeter Roy Campbell Jr., saxophonist Charles Gayle, guitarist Joe Morris, saxophonist Daniel Carter, and more.