Ever since it’s entrance into the instrumental lexicon of jazz the string bass has served as a rhythmic anchor. No matter how far and wide modern bassists stretch the parameters of the instrument’s four strings its importance, as a fundamental musical fulcrum remains irrefutable. Friesen communicates a healthy respect for the traditional role of his instrument in his playing while at the same time surreptitiously subverting it. He employs similar subterfuge in his programmatic approach to this newly compiled disc of duets. Instead of limiting his interactions to a single partner he handpicks six skilled musicians to converse with. The tracks are organized in a linear fashion that allows each pair twice the opportunity exercise their collective improvisational muscles. In addition to encouraging relaxed, but invigorating interplay the itinerary also effectively breaks up the program into a range of exciting moods and variations.
With Friesen as the universal common denominator each piece is guaranteed to move and each of his guests seems to gain enthusiasm from his presence. I’ve personally never been a fan of Michael Brecker, particularly his more recent work, but his work on the reading of Sonny Rollins’ “Airegin” and the Friesen penned “Signs and Wonders” sounds truly inspired; a stirring balance between tasteful restraint and barn-storming intensity. Scofield formulates his customary slightly off-center groove chemistry on “True Blue” and “Old Folks,” and Clark Terry spins a soothing web of gentle swing on “I Want to Be Happy” and “Breeze.” Those expecting the Cool-toned Shank of old are in for a wake-up call with his work here. His easy tone is still present, but often tempered with a smoldering bite particularly on “Double Take.” The pieces with Zeitlin are the least satisfying if only because they lose some edge in the gentle waltz-like waves that unfurl from his keyboard. Kropinski’s style is equally relaxed but without the maudlin excess. He routinely adds rhythmic percussive accents with his fingers to the wooden body of his guitar alongside his blistering string-bending lines. This disc is a beautifully conceived and programmed release that merits your attention and fans of the bass will be particularly impressed by Friesen’s facility.
Track Listing: Airegin/ True Blue/ I Want to Be Happy/ In Times Past/ Alone Together/ On the Road With Jazz/ Signs and Wonders/ Old Folks/ Breeze/ Maybe In Spring/ Double Take/ Pianola.
Recorded: 1, 7- April 25, 1993, Whithorse Studios, Portland, OR; 2, 8- April 16, 1993, Bay Records, Berkeley, CA; 3, 9- June 30, 1993, Whitehorse Studios, Portland, OR; 4, 10- August 22, 1992,
Personnel: David Friesen- bass; Michael Brecker- tenor saxophone; John Scofield- electric guitar; Clark Terry- flugelhorn, trumpet; Denny Zeitlin- acoustic grand piano; Bud Shank- alto saxophone; Uwe Kropinski- acoustic guitar.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.