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From the opening riffs of guitarist Joe Friedman's up-tempo arrangement of "Pure Imagination (taken from the soundtrack of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), it is clear that this is a new talent who deserves quick recognition. He plays electric guitar cleanly, with little or no reverb or other electronic effects, and turns many clever phrases, as on Monk's "Bolivar Blues .
There are two original compositions on the disc. "A Darker Shade of Rose begins as a duo between Friedman and bassist Peter Washington, evolving into a Latin-inflected piece. The title track, with its samba feel, seems to have garnered inspiration from contemporary Brazilian jazz composers such as Cesar Camargo Mariano and Azymuth.
The Rodgers and Hart ballad, "My Romance, has been covered quite a few times but Friedman makes it fresh in a heartfelt rendition, complemented by drummer (and NAS Music label head) Neal Smith's subtle playing and a haunting Washington bass line.
Friedman switches to acoustic for a solo interpretation of another Monk tune, "'Round Midnight, which is combined here with "Battle Hymn of the Republic. His chord voicings and solo sequences show a clear influence from the works of bossa nova innovators Baden Powell and Charlie Byrd. Tagging the chorus to the famous military tune was a clever move, demonstrating a sly sense of humor.
The album reprises the upbeat mode of its opening with a fast-paced version of Horace Silver's "Blowin' The Blues Away, a showcase for Friedman's amazing speed as well as the talents of pianist George Colligan and Smith.
Track Listing: Pure Imagination; Bolivar Blues; A Darker Shade of Rose; Cup O' Joe; My Romance; Who's That Lady; Round Midnight/Battle Hymn of the Republic; Myna Bird Blues; Stairway to the Stars; Blowin The Blues Away.
Personnel: Joe Friedman: acoustic and electric guitars; George Colligan: piano;
Peter Washington: bass; Neal Smith: drums; Renato Thoms: percussion.