Passings: Friedman, Jones, Thompson


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The generations move on. It’s a sad part of an observer’s task to acknowledge the deaths of musicians who made important contributions.

Pianist Don Friedman died of pancreatic cancer at home in New York City on June 30. He was 81. Friedman was treasured by fellow musicians for the subtlety and strength of his support as an accompanist and for the daring ingenuity of his harmonies. He was equally at home with traditionalist Bobby Hackett; modern mainstreamers Clark Terry, Chet Baker and Lee Konitz; and free jazz iconoclasts Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy. This Friedman quotation from my notes for his last album, Nite Lites, indicates a major source of his inspiration.

I love contemporary modern music,” Don said. “Great classical composers inspire me. I’ve listened a lot to Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Stravinvsky, Prokofiev, Stockhausen, Bartok. They inspire me to try to make sounds like theirs.

Here is Friedman at the Jazz Baltica Festival in 2006 with bassist Martin Wind and a drummer whom YouTube does not identify.

Randy Jones, who played drums with Dave Brubeck for more than thirty years,died on June 17 in New York. A London studio musician who moved to the United States in 1973 to work with Maynard Ferguson’s big band, he played with Chet Baker, Buddy DeFranco and the big bands of Bill Watrous and Harry James, among others, before he joined Brubeck. In the Brubeck quartet, he occupied the slot long filled by Joe Morello and, like Morello, specialized in soloing on Paul Desmond’s composition “Take Five.”

Chris Brubeck, Dave’s trombonist and bassist son, played often with Jones in his father’s groups. He told me recently, “Sometimes Randy swung harder than I thought was humanly possible.”

Three days following Jones’s death, pianist Sir Charles Thompson died at the age of 98. As talented as an arranger and leader as he was at the keyboard, Thompson was one of the great mainstream eclectics, bridging the swing and bebop eras. A combo he led and recorded in 1945 included bop saxophonists Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon and swing trumpeter Buck Clayton. Lester Young, dubbed Thompson “Sir’ Charles to give him parity with Duke Ellington and Count Basie. Here, he solos with a band led by tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins that also includes Harry “Sweets” Edison on trumpet, Jimmy Woode on bass and Jo Jones on drums.

Thompson died in Tokyo, where he had lived since 2002.

RIP, all.

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