Taking a rare, well-deserved turn as a leader, pianist Don Friedman delivers a recording of fine, small band music. The material consists primarily of a wide sweep of American Popular Songs and jazz standards. In Friedman’s scheme of things, a swing-era favorite like “Tickle Toes” coexists comfortably with “Green Dolphin Street,” “Round Midnight,” as well as a pair of his own compositions.
Friedman’s rapport with Tom Butts is one of the disc’s strengths. In addition to improvised duets with rhythm accompaniment that are built into several cuts, the pianist has a penchant for playing arresting chords behind the tenor saxophonist’s solos, adding color to the logical, well-structured work. Befitting a musician who has played with giants ranging from Jimmy Giuffre, to Ornette Coleman, to Clark Terry, Friedman’s own solos are full of quiet suprises, like disrupting the flow of neat, single-note lines with chordal passages, but always retaining a melodic essence. In particular, his ballad playing has exceptional clarity. Bassist Gary Mazzaropppi and drummer Frank Ferreri are solid ensemble players and offer unobtrusive support to the primary soloists.
Vocalist Alyse Levy conveys the lyrics to tunes such as “There’s No Such Thing As Love,” and “Time After Time,” with subtlety and sincerity. Her version of “Here’s That Rainy Day” beautifully imparts heartache and loss.
Personnel: Don Friedman-Piano; Tom Butts-Tenor Saxophone; Frank Ferreri-Drums; Gary Mazzaroppi-Bass; Alyse Levy-Vocals