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David Friesen

Listed on a recent Jazz Bass Survey by jazz educators as one of the 24 most influential bassists in the history of jazz.

About Me

Anyone acquainted with David Friesen's exceptional music quickly thinks of his creative universe. Ocean-deep in his sensitivity to the human spirit, Friesen is compassionate and his music founded on integrity and the pursuit of excellence.

He began playing the ukulele and the accordion at 10, and a guitar professionally at 16. Born in Tacoma, Washington May 6, 1942, he was raised in Seattle. Friesen's first exposure to jazz was Slim Gaillard in an L.A. club when he was underage and playing guitar.

At 19, while stationed with the U.S. Army in Paris, he sat in with George Arvanitas, Johnny Griffin and Art Taylor. Then, in Copenhagen, he gigged with drummer Dick Berk and met Ted Curson in 1961. Back in the U.S., he became committed to the bass in 1964, practicing about ten hours a day. He was jamming in Seattle with local musicians - Larry Coryell and Randy Brecker were among his young compatriots - at such places as the Penthouse, where Miles, Coltrane and Bill Evans would perform; David would play opposite them and occasionally sat in with the visiting giants. Also, for two years Friesen played piano and bass at a coffee house called the llahngaelhyn owned by bassist Jerry Heldman.

David Friesen playing his Hemage Bass. Photo by Watzek Photografie.After a long tenure touring with Elmer Gill, who played with Charlie Parker and the Lionel Hampton band; Friesen opened his own coffee house in 1973 in Portland where he and his family make their home. Word began to circulate and his gigs assumed a different perspective as he hooked up with John Handy and others. Jazz education also entered his sphere of interest, and he became a faculty member of the National Stage Band Camps for a couple of summers working with Marian McPartland, John La Porta, Phil Wilson, and the Jamey Aebersold combo clinics.

Joe Henderson was his next association, which was followed by a 1975 summer tour of Europe with the Billy Harper Quintet. This tour opened new doors and led to stints with Stan Getz, Sam Rivers, Kenny Drew, George Adams and Danny Richmond (records with the latter three), and concerts with Dexter Gordon and Mose Allison. Then in 1976-77, he joined Ted Curson, who showcased Friesen's solo bass work and gave him more visibility in the jazzscape.

I first became acquainted with Friesen's gifts at a very moving, successful clinic the Curson group gave to the jazz studies students at Western Washington University in Bellingham, where I was on the faculty in 1977. Then at the 1977 Monterey Jazzfest … Friesen captured the entire audience of more than 7,000 as he opened the festival with a bass solo – sitting on a drum stool, cello-style.

With barely half of 1977 gone, Friesen was joined by the imaginative young guitarist John Stowell; together they geographically dotted the West Coast from B.C. to L.A. with performances and clinics, garnering more fans along the way.

Musical associations with legendary pianist Mal Waldron and f lutist Paul Horn resulted in duet albums with each man, and several concert tours in Europe and America. In August of 1983, Friesen accompanied Paul Horn on a historic 4 week, 18 concert tour of the Soviet Union.

David Friesen has recorded over 80 CD's as a leader/ co-leader and appeared as a sideman or featured artist on more than 100 recordings. He has performed and/ or recorded with many of the great names and legends of jazz including: Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Sam Rivers, Michael Brecker, Bud Shank, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Shaw, Freddy Hubbard, Art Farmer, Clark Terry, Joe Venuti, Mal Waldron, Jaki Byard, Kenny Drew Sr., Chick Corea, Milt Jackson, Slim Gaillard, John Scofield, Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones, Paul Motian, Jack Dejohnette, Airto Moreira, and many others. He has performed in concert as a soloist (Friesen is one of two or three bassists in the world that is able to play a solo concert and keep an audience riveted) and with his own groups throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Turkey, Poland, Japan, Czech Republic, Ukraine, New Zealand, Australia, China and South America.

Friesen's music, which is imbued with certain ingredients of jazz, is also characterized by folk-flavored things and classical and Jewish veins with substantial spontaneity, lyrical strength, warmth and creative discoveries in the musical wilderness.

Dr. Herb Wong/Jazz Times Photo: Wolfgang Voglhuber

My Jazz Story

Published on: 2018-05-30

I love jazz because of its freedom and harmonic and melodic beauty… the rhythms and the chance of self expression, to be unique. I was first exposed to jazz when I was five years old listening to a boogie woogie pianist playing in my home. The best show I ever attended was playing opposite and listening to John Coltrane and his quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmie Garrison, Elvin Jones in Seattle, WA in the '60s. Some of the early jazz records I purchased were Sonny Rollins Our Man in Jazz, Wes Montgomery Movin’ Along, Bill Evans Live at the Village Vanguard and Waltz For Debbie. My advice to new listeners: listen without trying to intellectualize… let the music take you on a journey. Listen to the lines being played by the soloist… hear the melodies… listen to the feeling. About my own personal story...I have recorded over 80 CD's as a leader/ co-leader and appeared as a sideman or featured artist on more than 100 recordings. I have had the priviledge to perform and/ or recorded with many of the great names and legends of jazz including: Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Sam Rivers, Michael Brecker, Bud Shank, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Shaw, Freddy Hubbard, Art Farmer, Clark Terry, Joe Venuti, Mal Waldron, Jaki Byard, Kenny Drew Sr., Chick Corea, Milt Jackson, Slim Gaillard, John Scofield, Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones, Paul Motian, Jack Dejohnette, Airto Moreira, and many others. I have been playing solo bass concerts since the mid-70's and have traveled as a soloist and with my own groups throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Turkey, Poland, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, China, Russia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Nigeria and the Ukraine. I have been mentioned in 2 recent separate polls as one of the 100 Greatest Jazz Bassists of all time, and one of 20 of the most influential jazz bassists in the history of jazz. In 1997 I was nominated for the best jazz bassist in the American Jazz Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. I was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame at the first induction ceremony Sept. 2007 and the Oregon Jazz Society Hall of Fame May 2012. I have written two musical scores for animated shorts, both of which have been Academy Award Nominees My original composition Playground placed 2nd in the 2014 International Songwriting Competition with over 18,000 applicants. More recently, 2018-2020 I have recorded and played in concert 3 times, my original music with a 40 piece woodwind and Brass orchestra in Kiev, Ukraine.

My House Concert Story

I have played at many house concerts over the past 40 years. They are very special because of the ambiance, the people that attend are usually very serious about listening and a very specialized venue owned by persons that love jazz.

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