DF: The kind of music that I would like to play right now, is to have a group that is also - the word intuition keeps coming up - you have to have this kind of intuitive understanding between the three players. When it's a piano trio, obviously the piano is the lead instrument and then the bassist and the drummer, they're accompanying you but at the same time you want to be able to feed off of them. You're feeding them and feeding off of them at the same time. They have to hear what you're playing and at the same time, you have to hear what they're playing. Because you can inspire each other. And that's what I'm looking for and I'm also looking for a way of playing where there's a lot of interaction. That's another important aspect to a rhythm section, there's not just "dum-ding-da-ding-dum-da-ding" all the time. Some groups they play, they never vary from that, you hear the same constant beat all the time. I like to play around with the times, with the rhythms, not the meters necessarily. There's so much you can do and [drummer] Tony [Jefferson] is fantastic at changing the feel of the rhythm without changing the rhythm and [bassist] Martin [Wind], we do a lot of where we don't play four all the time. And they interact, feed off of each other, and it's just this triangle of people making music together and all tuning in to each other.
AAJ: You've really gotten into doing standards.
DF: Standards for me, it's almost like, when you do original material, it's stuff that you haven't played for a long time, because it's new stuff. So the most comfortable way to play music is to play music that you've played for a long time. When I play a standard tune like "All the Things You Are", I don't have to think anymore about what's going to happen in the tune, it's just like a part of me and I can play off the tune and do whatever I want. It's something that comes from inside me but if I'm playing new material, whether it's an original or something that I haven't played before, I have to think of what's coming next, what chord is this. You have to start thinking so you're dividing your attention between your creative process and the basic thing of knowing where you are and what's coming next.
AAJ: In your long career, what is your fondest musical experience?
DF: I kind of feel that my fondest musical experience is always the most recent one. The thing that I did last night stands out in my mind. The last time I was at the Kitano and I was with the same group that I'm playing with now, we played a tune called "Never Let Me Go" that we play a lot and we got into some stuff there, I wish it had been recorded, because it was one of the best solos that I ever played. I got into stuff, I don't even know how I did it or what happened, I didn't know what I was doing in a way. I'll never forget it. I'm not the kind of a person who looks back too much. I'm aware of all the things that I've done but I don't focus on that. I think about what I want to do still. There's so much. Music is such a fantastic thing, you can never do everything so you're always thinking what can I do next? And how can I play better, how can I improve, how can I be more creative?
· Don Friedman - A Day in the City (Riverside-OJC, 1961)
· Booker Little - Out Front (Candid, 1961)
· Charles Lloyd - Discovery (Columbia, 1964)
· Don Friedman - Metamorphosis (Prestige-OJC, 1966)
· Don Friedman - Live at Maybeck, Vol.33 (Concord, 1993)
· Don Friedman - My Favorite Things, Then and Now (441 Records, 2003)
Jos L. Knaepen