Don Friedman

Metamorphosis

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AllMusic Review by

For Friedman's fifth recording, he is definitely exploring the progressive edges of modern mainstream post-bop. He's more sublimated as a voice, with guitarist Attila Zoller taking a prominent role as frontman, while the performances of bassist Richard Davis and drummer Joe Chambers provide perfect foils for Friedman's swashbuckling creative urges. While the pianist utilizes elements stemming from bop and the avant garde, the melodic and listenable ingredients are juxtaposed with challenging ideas, and the leader acts as a true ringleader in the midst of his three brilliant compadres. "Wakin' Up" starts the six tracks in a quirky, mid-swing waltz; Zoller's signature clipped, staccato leads and the innovative Davis' ruminating bass chords identify a sound prevalent throughout. "Spring Signs" presents a written 16-bar head, then scattered melodic and harmonic shards, and some free improv with instruments countermoving each other. A bop-swing mid-section, bowed long tones as only Davis can conjure, and Zoller rambling on and on roughly signifies this A-B-A composition, which runs 11 and a half minutes. Jimmy Guiffre's churning "Drive" has a design that the writer describes as a difficult piece of music which is embellished, perhaps even expounded upon, by the collective light of these four. The most tunefully attractive "Extension" of Zoller's is again boppish, with guitar and ostinato bass leading the way. It is here that Friedman's gypsy voice comes to the forefront amidst a string of probing, wafting, bright, and beautiful harmonic inventions, with or without guitar, in no time or with meter. "Troubadour's Groovedour" is Zoller's dark 12-tone based musical limerick, with phrases traded equally, swing in 4/4, and leading to a conspiratorial bridge of call and response with guitar and piano only. The finale, Zoller's "Dream Bells," is also a no time tryptych;, angular and Monk-like, it has a contained intensity much like the state of REM. The bowed bass of Davis has spaced-out overtones, and a nifty, multiple-cymbal solo from Chambers is delicate yet direct, in 6/8 or rubato fashion. Certainly Friedman challenges listeners with this music, but he also challenges his own abilities and concepts. For the time period, it is one of the most vital, original, progressive statements, and one that, after all these years, retains a timeless freshness that bears not only a second listening, but consideration as a creative music hallmark.

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