I am a drummer in Chicago and was lucky enough to play with Franz on several occasions over the years. I met Franz while working with Jim Beebe's group about 16 years ago and consequently played a few "Jazz at Noon" gigs with him. I was pretty young at the time and new to the style that they were playing. I got some tapes from Wayne Jones and was learning some tunes, but it was Franz that taught me how to keep time on the snare drum. He heard me roll at the end of a tune and said, "OK, you've got some hands, but ..." and then started talking to me about how to play the time with one hand and the press roll with the other. He also told me how, back in the day, before the sock cymbal was invented, he would sometimes pick up two cymbals (after he was done blowing) and clap them together along with the drummer. I always think of him when I play that snare drum beat.
A few years ago I played a concert with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble at the Art Institute for the "Roots of Chicago Jazz" series featuring the "Great Chicago Tenor Saxes". You were probably there and remember what a fantastic concert it was. Everyone played great and I was excited to play with Johnny Griffin for the first time, but it was your father who stole the show. He came out and played a few numbers with the rhythm section and sang his lyrics to "Struttin with Some BBQ". We were thrilled to be playing with a living legend and, along with the audience, were amazed at the energy of this 92 year old man! He seemed genuinely surprised by the standing ovation he received - as if he had just gone out to do his part of the show, business as usual, no big deal. But people were really moved and I think he was moved by their response.
I have been playing with Von Freeman for nineteen years now. I always remembered Franz's age because he is ten years older than Von. I remember them sitting next to one another and talking before the concert. Von was understandably upset last Tuesday when I passed along the message that Franz had passed. He said that Franz had been one of his idols growing up, "...you should have heard him play with Earl Hines' band. Man, he could really play." Von first heard Franz play around the time of the World's Fair in 1933.
Franz was blessed to live such a long life and to be able to play into his 90s. The rest of us were blessed to have heard him and especially lucky to have played with him.
Michael Raynor, Drummer