Fred Fried: The Wisdom of Notes (2006)
This is a gentle set, but Fred Fried's acoustic guitar, with its seven nylon strings, is unlikely to feature in anything much different. Tony Tedesco plies his brushes resourcefully on his drum kit, but the key to many of the set's successes is the brilliant bass playing of the veteran Michael Moore. Don't even think of listening to The Wisdom of Notes on a sound system which doesn't bring the bassist to the front (although the last title does seem somehow to be up there without anybody apart from Fried solo).
I can't imagine Fried is the easiest man to accompany or (in respect strictly of musical considerations!) work with in a group. He's preoccupied with harmony and phrasing, even a fullness of phrasing that somewhat overflows the beat, with the full sound of his classy instrument. He has a powerful musical vision, that is not easily satisfied. Also he doesn't sound like any other major guitarist's follower.
After "Peau Douce" seemed strangely familiar, I noted it was a Steve Swallow composition, and what was familiar was the sort of line the improvisation went into, in Moore's work at least as much as Fried's. On the opener, "With a Song in My Heart," Moore manages a sound at least as beautiful as Fried's. On the leader's up-tempo "Simple Things," Moore even does wittily funky things, getting excellent support from the composer on a perky solo. They have a very different empathy on the tender opening to "Seesaw," before Moore's brilliantly unpedestrian walking bass jumps the pace a notch.
Given Fried's preference for full chording and a plethora of passing notes, and the resultant likelihood of his tripping himself up or lagging just a shade too long in laid-backness and beauty of tone, it's amazing how Moore adds accents. "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year" works especially well, the quiet music allowing Moore's variety of sound a clear hearing.
They're at their obvious best with a strong melody, as on Johnny Mandel's "Moon Song"a happy choice because it's not too obviouseach of them might seem to have one hand on the guitar and the other on the bass. Besides several lovely things on the title tune, by Fried, there's some work from Moore which might cause more bassists of average talent to despair.
Though they are occasionally in impossibly close synch, the pair don't achieve maximum empathy all the time. "Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most" does emphasize what amazing things Fried can do when he plays solo, but there are surprises on The Wisdom of Notes with every listen.
Track Listing: With A Song In My Heart; The Wisdom of Notes (Fried); You Must Believe in Spring, Evening Song (Fried), In Your Own Sweet Way; Peau Douce; The Simplest Things (Fried); Seesaw; Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year; Moon Song; Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most.
Personnel: Fred Fried: 7-string acoustic guitar; Michael Moore: bass; Tony Tedesco: drums.
Record Label: Ballet Tree