Don Friedman, who has recorded quite a few dates as a leader, as well as being an in-demand sideman, is joined by two other top-notch veterans, bassist George Mraz and drummer Lewis Nash, for this 2003 studio date. One of the biggest challenges for a jazz musician is to find new approaches to the most frequently played standards, something the trio seems to do effortlessly. A good starting point is the opening track, a stunning rendition of "My Favorite Things." Rather than follow the mantra set by John Coltrane in the early '60s, Friedman doesn't postpone the release of the theme nor does he play it in a modal setting. Instead, his re-voices it with lush chord substitutions, while never losing touch with it. "Easy to Love" is recast as a lively samba, while "Never Let Me Go," forever associated with the late Bill Evans' memorable solo recording for Verve, is spaciously arranged, allowing breathing room for Mraz's intricate bassline and Nash's complementary brushwork. Friedman devours Coltrane's "Giant Steps" whole with a driving interpretation, while his jaunty take of Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now" is every bit as playful as the composer's recordings. The pianist also includes three originals: the catchy call-and-response blues "Schmooze Blooze," the lightning hard bop line "Half and Half" (a great feature for Nash), and the lovely ballad finale "Summer's End." Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden