Freeman, Earl - Poems & Drawings

Regular price $18.00

Earl Freeman.
Poems & Drawings.

50 Miles of Elbow Room and WRY Press, 2021.
Spiral-bound softcover.
18 pages.
Second edition of 150.

50 Miles of Elbow Room and WRY Press are extremely pleased to present a collection of recovered, fugitive works from the enigmatic musician, composer, artist, and writer, Earl Freeman (March 11, 1931 - July 25, 1994). Born in Oakland, California, over the course of his life he traveled widely and forged significant associations in the wave of U.S. free jazz musicians who relocated to France in the late 1960s. He played & recorded in both the United States and Europe with many significant contributors to the 1960s & ‘70s creative underground; Archie Shepp, Sunny Murray, Clifford Thornton, Kenneth Terroade, Noah Howard, Claude Delcloo, Arthur Jones, Selwyn Lissack, Gong, Brigitte Fontaine, Frank Wright, Alan Silva, Billy Bang, William Parker, Sonny Simmons, and Daniel Carter, amongst many others. His otherworldly approach to electric bass is heard to especially strong effect with The Freestyle Band, whose privately-pressed LP is a singular dispatch from the NYC free jazz scene of the 1980s.

Though primarily making his mark as a bassist, we believe he may have self-published collections of his intricate ink drawings and unusual, enigmatic poems (an advertisement we discovered in an issue of the black poetry journal Kitabu Cha Jua from 1975 would suggest so), but as of this time and after years of looking we have not discovered any extant copies. The pieces gathered here are taken from a small handful of manuscripts & drawings sent to friends, primarily while he was living in New York City and San Francisco over the course of the last two decades of his life. The poems hint at the peripatetic life of an avant-garde jazz musician, with an underlying sense of unease permeating many of them. His consistently idiosyncratic use of dashes and unusual punctuation give them the appearance of scores to song & music on the page. Indeed, many of these poems seem to sing at a strange frequency, and place Freeman’s work in a continuum with other avant-garde Black Arts Poetry Movement poets such as Lloyd Addison and N.H. Pritchard. His exquisitely worked drawings range from a portrait of Civil Rights icon George Jackson, to abstracted landscapes that chart the movement of air, to a nearly apocalyptic looking depiction of Paris.

Second edition of 150 copies in a new, larger 6x9 wire-spiral-bound format, printed on super heavy duty Mohawk Superfine paper, 18 pages. This publication & other beautiful offerings are also available direct from WRY.

For an in-depth look at what we’ve learned of Freeman’s life & story thus far, please see the lengthy series of interviews and recollections co-editor Adam Lore has collected at
"Radically departing from cliched ideas of 'jazz poetry,' Freeman's poems are gothic and surreal, combining out-of-context anecdotal fragments, non-sequiturs, and rule-breaking punctuation - piled-up dashes and equals signs, commas breaking into the middle of words. ... Poems and Drawings is a fascinating contribution to our sense of the multi-disciplinary undercurrents of the jazz avant garde." -Pierre Crepon & David Grundy, The New York City Jazz Record, March 2021. See the full review.