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One of the sweetest sounds in jazz is that of a well groomed piano trio. Many would agree, there's little to contend with an able-bodied threesome, flipping through the pages of this or that tune, together finding its cozy hearth in harmony and rhythm. Veteran pianist Don Friedman has found that center and, alongside bassist George Mraz and drummer Lewis Nash, tendered a second offering from their ensemble, this time entitled My Favorite Things.
The trio's first release, '03's Waltz for Debby , was lauded by critics for its intimacy, warm tone and fiery interplay. And though sequels often fail to deliver the artistry and drive of their preceding halves, it will delight listeners to hear that Friedman and company have managed to buck the trend. Again their album is split into ten robust tracks and is nicely balanced by pointed standards and Friedman originals.
Among the standards here, highlights include the title track, made famous for jazz by John Coltrane's historic 1960 version, and Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now." The former exults in the same bursting yet calculated energy of its legendary forebearer, giving a sense that at any moment the dam could break and tides of expression would drown the delicate order at play. But the deluge never comes and the listener is left to delight in a tenuous yet goaded high-wire act.
The latter, plucked from a rarer pile of Monk gems, is similarly invocative in spirit. Friedman chops up his usually lush harmonic style, while Nash and Mraz accent the lead with clever rolls and strolls. Bittersweet and boisterous, "Ask Me Now" is pure Monk magic with a sharp, contemporary twist.
As for Friedman's compositions, all three are worthy of note and all three seem the perfect embodiments of their titles. The first, "Schmooze Blooze," is no less than a swinging dialogue between old friends; the second, "Half and Half," cunningly volleys from breakneck to jogging rhythms; and the third, a solo piano venture entitled "Summer's End," is delicate, earthy and autumnal.
A single listen of My Favorite Things will undoubtedly beget a second, a third, and eventually the hope that the trio of Friedman, Nash, and Mraz continues its pleasing output.
Track Listing: 1 My Favorite Things 5:44
2 It Could Happen to You 7:05
3 Easy to Love 5:46
4 Ask Me Now 7:07
5 Schmooze Blooze 5:29
6 Never Let Me Go 7:30
7 Half and Half 3:34
8 I'm All Smiles 6:34
9 Giant Steps 3:56
10 Summer'd End 6:20
Personnel: Don Friedman: Piano;
George Mraz: Bass;
Lewis Nash: Drums.