Don Friedman: Waltz for Debby (2003)
At the dire risk of committing gratuitous alliteration, there are four "un"s that apply to Don Friedman's playing: under-recorded, under-rated, uncluttered, and unpretentious. A West Coast veteran who's played with Herbie Mann, Charles Lloyd, and Ornette Coleman, he's not a household name but is instantly engaging with his clean touch and bright, flowing sound. Like any lyrical pianist, he's been compared to Bill Evans; there is some harmonic similarity, but Friedman is more driving, and his version of "Waltz for Debby" swings hard. He couldn't have better backup in George Mraz and Lewis Nash, two gentlemen with huge ears and masterly chops who extend and embellish Friedman's graceful, relaxed feel. It's impossible to tell that this was their first time playing together.
It's a beautiful trio CD, definitely above the pack, with some shimmering moments, like the aforementioned Debby, a gossamer rendition of "You Must Believe in Spring," and the imaginative deconstruction of "The Shadow of Your Smile," where glimpses of the melody are like sunlight streaming through a misty, lacey forest. There's a good balance between kickers ("I Concentrate on You," Chick Corea's "Bud Powell," and Friedman's own "35 W. 4th Street"), wit (his "Blues in a Hurry," the funky "Flamands," and the sly melody of the Brazil-tinged "From A to Z," with its great rhythm solos) and ballads, including a sweet and thoughtful solo treatment of "Old Folks." The music is finely rendered, warmly recorded, and thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. And start to finish. And...
Track Listing: 35 W. 4th St., I Concentrate on You, Waltz for Debby, Bud Powell, You Must Believe in Spring, Blues in a Hurry, The Shadow of Your Smile, Flamands,From A to Z, Old Folks
Personnel: Don Friedman (piano), George Mraz (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)