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David Friesen

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.

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.

While on tour in September 1977, the Ted Curson group, of which David Friesen was a primary member, gave to the jazz studies students at Western Washington University in Bellingham, a very moving and successful clinic. Several days later at the Monterey Jazz festival, 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.

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"Once in a great while, a musician emerges with such authority and such seemingly effortless originality that his place in the front ranks of his instrument is unquestioned. So it is with David." —Nat Hentoff

"David Friesen is doing for the bass what Pythagoras did for triangles." —Patrick Hinely/Jazz Magazine

"Bassist David Friesen is a Phenomenon, a player whose musicianship, tone, time and imagination are uncategorizable." —Nat Hentoff

"One of the most eminent exponents of the instrument, he maintains an astonishing level of virtuosity." —Leonard Feather/Los Angeles Times

"David Friesen's music is extremely complex while retaining a simple beauty, it's liltingly melodic, full of open space, and refreshingly peaceful." —Lee Hildebrand/San Francisco Music Express

"Anyone who was lucky enough to see David Friesen live on stage, who could see how he bends in near contemplation over his unique instrument which has been manufactured in Austria, how he strikes the strings with his left(!) hand in order to drum complex rhythms on the body of the instrument with his right hand, now begins to understand: A creative search has come to its destination with great feeling

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Primary Instrument




Willing to teach

Advanced only


David Friesen is now accepting on skype or in person, bass students and students on any instrument for lessons and ensemble workshops. Workshop Format: Residents of Oregon and Washington David Friesen can be reached at [email protected] to acquire about lessons. Dan Waineo can be reached at [email protected] for those interested in the ensemble workshops in Portland, Oregon. Jerry Simons can be reached at [email protected] for those interested in the ensemble workshops in Seattle, Washington.

Clinic/Workshop Information

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Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Thousands of Ways

OA2 Records



Origin Records


Day Of Rest

Origin Records



Origin Records



Origin Records


My Faith, My Life

Origin Records


Flying My Kite

From: Thousands of Ways
By David Friesen

Backward Glance

From: Day Of Rest
By David Friesen


From: Passage
By David Friesen

Still Waters

From: Testimony
By David Friesen

Ancient Kings

From: My Faith, My Life
By David Friesen


From: Triple Exposure
By David Friesen


From: Where The Light Falls
By David Friesen



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