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DON FRIEDMAN

Piano Works VI – From A to Z

ACT 9755-2 [54:28]

 



 
Meant to be (Zoller) [5:12]
When It’s Time (Zoller) [5:22]
A Thousand Dreams (Zoller) [4:05]
Alicia’s Lullaby (Zoller) [5:34]
I Concentrate on You (Porter) [5:39]
Free Flow (Friedman) [5:03]
Memory of Scotty (Friedman) [6:08]
From A to Z (Friedman) [4:39]
Ask Me Now (Monk) [5:43]
Straight Ahead (Friedman) [3:28]
Blues for Attila (Friedman) [3:02]
rec. November 2005, Bauer Studio, Ludwigsburg, Germany

Don Friedman is a pianist who can draw on a rich and extensive experience in a range of jazz styles. Born in 1935, he has been active since the 1950s, making his first recordings in 1955. He has since recorded and worked with a roll call of big names, names which serve to evidence his stylistic flexibility – the trumpeters include Ruby Braff, Bobby Hackett, Clark Terry and Don Cherry, while the saxophonists include Harold Ashby, Charles Lloyd, Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman and Jimmy Giuffre!

Listening to him play solo piano one is likely to think at times of both Bill Evans and Art Tatum, for his harmonic sense and his rippling runs and ornaments respectively; but, in truth, Friedman has the whole jazz tradition (and more than a little of the classical tradition) at his disposal.

Friedman dedicates this album to the memory of one of his most important musical associates, the Hungarian born guitarist Attila Zoller (1927-1998); the first four tunes here are compositions by Zoller and the CD closes with Friedman’s own ‘Blues for Attila’. Zoller was a subtle musician, whose improvisations were often rather oblique and understated, and something of those same qualities are evident in Friedman’s treatment of his compositions. ‘Meant to Be’ and ‘When It’s Time’ are handled rhapsodically, and ‘Alicia’s Lullaby’ gets a beautifully gentle reading. The closing blues doesn’t wear its heart on its sleeve – that isn’t Friedman’s way – but its sincerity is evident and it builds to a fitting monumental affirmation.

Elsewhere, Friedman’s treatment of Cole Porter’s ‘I Concentrate on You’ is an elaborate improvised structure which yet remains faithful to the spirit of its original amidst its elaborate counter melodies, and the whole performance has a winning tenderness. Friedman’s reading of Thelonious Monk’s ‘Ask Me Now’ displays an assured understanding of the way the tune works without ever settling for mere imitation as he commutes Monk’s composition to his own less angular idiom.

Friedman’s own originals are all well-constructed vehicles for his virtuosity as an improviser. On ‘Straight Ahead’ there is some excellent two-handed playing and ‘Free Flow’ is an attractively impressionistic piece. ‘Memory of Scotty’ (a musical tribute to one of Friedman’s other important friends and associates, the great double bass player Scott La Faro) opens in relatively simple elegiac fashion and builds to a more complex conclusion, without ever losing the original mood. The title track is full of elaborate runs and figures, the occasional unexpected harmony or percussive accent interrupting the flowing runs to striking effect.

This is not flashy or obviously spectacular piano playing, but it is intelligent, lyrical and full of feeling and is warmly recommended.

Glyn Pursglove



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