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.
Track Listing: 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
Personnel: Don Friedman (piano), George Mraz (bass), Lewis Nash (drums)
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.