Somewhere Attila Zoller is smiling, pleased to see to his one-time foil, pianist Don Friedman, playing to a full audience at the Jazz Standard last month in support of his new album Waltz for Debby. Those giddy days of the Zoller-Friedman quartet days are long past, but Don Friedman has lost little of the touch that made him a darling of that vague area between hard bop and avant-garde bubbling in the '60s.
Most know Friedman now for his role in the quintet of the venerable trumpeter Clark Terry, but the pianist has been steadily releasing albums since 1993 (after a long hiatus from recording as a leader). This is his second this year and his first for the 441 Records imprint. Unlike the other effort, here Friedman goes with heavy hitters in the piano trio support roles in bassist George Mraz and drummer Lewis Nash (instead of Buster Williams and Billy Drummond), yielding a predictably different result, but the constant is Friedman's still-fresh approach to a mixed program of standards and originals.
Waltz for Debby is a self-conscious celebration of the pianist as composer, featuring material by such luminaries of this species as Bill Evans (the title track), Michel Legrand ("You Must Believe in Spring"), Chick Corea ("Bud Powell"), and Friedman himself. Where the live performance and the album diverge is in the contributions of the sidemen. Mraz is usually called for to provide his particularly lyrical, almost folky lines and solos to the mix while Lewis Nash hums along, integral but not overpowering. Friedman comes from the Bill Evans school, avoiding the florid or the flashy. His playing is best termed thoughtful; he makes you think to realize all he does. If the piano trio is the currency of jazz, Friedman is its dependable banker.
35 W. 4th St., I Concentrate on You, Waltz for Debby, Bud Powell, You Must Believe in Spring, Blues
in a Hurry, The Shadow of Your Smile, Flamands,From A to Z, Old Folks
Don Friedman (piano), George Mraz (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)