School of Music > Faculty & Staff > Faculty A-Z > Michael Allemana

Michael Allemana

BM Northern Illinois University
MM Northwestern University

Mike Allemana has been an active jazz guitarist on the Chicago scene since the early 1990s. He earned a B.M. in Jazz Performance in 1991 at Northern Illinois University, where he studied with guitarists Bobby Roberts and Fareed Haque. After performing for two years in Cincinnati, Ohio, and spending many nights hanging with and learning from local guitar greats Cal Collins and Kenny Poole, he returned to Chicago in 1994 and has had a strong presence on the Chicago scene ever since.

Mike’s first steady gig was when he joined saxophonist Lin Halliday’s quartet in 1995. Shortly after, organ great Charles Earland hired Mike for his Chicago band, which included performances with Dr. Lonnie Smith. Then in October 1997, Mike joined saxophonist Von Freeman’s quartet at his famous Tuesday night gig at the New Apartment Lounge. For 15 years Mike performed, toured, and recorded with Freeman, appearing on his 2002 release The Improvisor on Premonition Records and his 2009 release Vonski Speaks on Nessa Records, a live recording of a 2002 concert in Berlin. His performance credits also include concerts with Steve Coleman’s Five Elements, Jimmy Cobb, Mickey Roker, and Randy Weston. Mike also works extensively as a first-call accompanist for many of the top Chicago jazz vocalists, including Paul Marinaro, Tammy McCann, and Frieda Lee.

In 2013, under the suggestion of drummer Mike Reed, Mike and guitarist George Freeman, Von Freeman’s younger brother, started a two-guitar jazz organ quartet at Constellation in Chicago. Since then they have performed at the 2014 Chicago Jazz Festival, the 2015 Made in Chicago festival in Poznan, Poland, and celebrated George Freeman’s ninetieth birthday at the 2017 Chicago Jazz Festival. Also, Mike and George have performed annually since 2014 at the Green Mill in Chicago with drumming legend Bernard Purdie. This group released their first album, Live at the Green Mill, on Ears&Eyes Records in August of 2017. 

Mike is also an active composer and arranger. Since 1996, he has been the guitarist for Brian O‘Hern’s Model Citizens Big Band, frequently contributing arrangements for the group. In 2008 he founded Come Sunday, a 4-part vocal group and jazz trio. In this project, which released its first album Crosscurrents in 2010 and toured Colombia in 2014 under grants from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation and the Old Town School of Folk Music, he arranges traditional spirituals, gospel, and civil rights songs. He composes original music for a trio collaboration with bassist Matt Ferguson and drummer Gerald Dowd (both DePaul alumni), The Regulators, founded in 2008. In addition, Mike has received several commissions. In 2011, the city of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) commissioned him to arrange a concert at Millennium Park of Von Freeman’s original compositions for a 10-piece group that included Steve Coleman, Erik Alexander, Julian Priester, and Art Hoyle. Also in 2011, the Jazz Institute of Chicago in collaboration with Estrada Poznan commissioned Mike to compose an original 4-part suite, Impressions of Von, for the 2011 Made In Chicago Festival in Poznan, Poland. The Jazz Institute of Chicago has commissioned Mike to revise and perform this piece for their 2018 Jazz City concert series.

n addition to his musical pursuits, Mike is a Ph. D candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago. After receiving a Master’s of Music in Jazz Studies at Northwestern University under the tutelage of Lincoln Center saxophonist Victor Goines in 2013, Mike received a University of Chicago fellowship, where he is pursuing research on a dissertation surrounding the music and life of Von Freeman and the experiences of people who have spent time performing and listening to jazz on the South Side of Chicago. By conducting interviews with musicians and others, Mike is researching the ways Von Freeman catalyzed sets of musical and social networks that grew primarily out of his New Apartment Lounge gig, and how people remember and discuss the profound experiences of people, place, and music that they have had on the South Side jazz scene, with special focus on the life experiences of George Freeman.