A visit to Ukraine by bassist, pianist, composer, arranger and genial jack-of-all-trades David Friesen, to flesh out his family heritage, led to this picturesque anthology by Friesen's quartet with reinforcement on eleven of its seventeen tracks from the National Academic Symphonic Band of Ukraine. The orchestral numbers were recorded in December 2018 at the National Philharmonic Hall in Kiev, the quartet tracks in October 2019 at the Kyiv Institute of Music.
Even with the presence of a full orchestra, there is no doubt whose gig this is, as Friesen's special Hemage bass is in the forefront most of the way, relegating the orchestra to a substantive but no less secondary role. And when his bass is not in the spotlight, Friesen's piano generally is, imparting much of the session's melodic and improvisational message. This is, however, somewhat less true on the quartet tracks, wherein tenor saxophonist Mykola Ryshkov and vibraphonist Eugene Dobrolovskyi are given room to express their singular point of view. Friesen, on piano, and Dobrolovskyi comprise an engaging duo on the lyrical "Distant Shores," and dance gaily around the changes on the whimsical finale, "Lament for the Lost / Procession."
All of the compositions are Friesen's, with arrangements divided among Friesen, Andrew Arnautov and orchestra director Oleksii Vikulov. Most have an explicit Ukrainian or eastern European veneer, with western jazz an ancillary yet indispensable ingredient. An exception is the quartet's carefree "Pumpkin," which is pure jazz from start to finish. Two of the orchestral numbers served as title pieces on Friesen's albums Another Time, Another Place (2017) and My Faith, My Life (2018). While the orchestra does its best when called upon, the fact that it is simply filling in the blanks is underscored by its having been recorded at arm's length, so to speak, with Friesen and the quartet in the foreground. That is not really a drawback, rather more a Testimony to Friesen's considerable talents and those of his companions in the quartet. Friesen's fans should have no trouble warming to this perceptive and tasteful showpiece.
Prelude; Still Waters; Meaningful; Distant Shores; Tribute; Sequence; Another Time, Another Place; Time
Never Ends; Deep South Blues; My Faith, My Life; Make Believe; New Ballad; Sailing; Going Forth; Pumpkin;
New Hope; Lament For The Lost/ Procession.
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