08/14/2012 01:17 pm ET Updated Aug 15, 2012

Von Freeman Dead: Chicago Jazz Saxophonist Dies At 88

A local tenor saxophonist is being remembered as an icon of Chicago's legendary jazz scene after dying at the age of 88 over the weekend.

Earl Lavon Freeman, known more commonly as Von Freeman, died of heart failure Sunday at the Kindred Chicago Lakeshore care center, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Freeman, who earlier this year was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts' Jazz Masters Fellowship, reveled in a certain degree of obscurity throughout his career, according to the Chicago Tribune. Though various internationally-celebrated acts, including Miles Davis, wanted him to perform with them on the road, Freeman turned them down.

Freeman, instead, preferred to remain in Chicago, playing a regular gig at the Apartment Lounge, a bar on East 75th Street. He also was a regular at other clubs around town, including Uptown's legendary Green Mill, according to CBS Chicago.

NPR's Patrick Jarenwattananon writes that Freeman was known as "a godfather of Chicago's jazz community not only through his distinctive style, which refracted the core language of bebop through its antecedents and outgrowths, but through his active leadership."