Joe Friedman

Cup o' Joe

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For his debut effort as a leader, guitarist Friedman clearly echoes the influences of Wes Montgomery, early George Benson, and contemporary Randy Johnston. Throughout, he mixes single lines and chords cleanly and effectively. It's a no-nonsense straight-ahead jazz date featuring two originals, several standards, and a couple of off-the-beaten path numbers. The date certainly is infused with a happy spirit. Pianist George Colligan is the star that shines the brightest and lifts the session. His many unison lines in tandem with Friedman sparkle during Thelonious Monk's tricky "Bolivar Blues" (accurate title -- "Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Luse-Are") and the joyous, samba-infused title track. There's bop in the classic, Benson-like "So-What"-ish "Myna Bird Blues," and "Blowin' the Blues Away," while good groove prevails for the Isley Brothers R&B classic "Who's That Lady?" Straight blues, two ballads, and an acoustic solo guitar take of "'Round Midnight," melded with "Battle Hymn of the Republic" à la Gene Harris, rounds out the CD. There's nothing earth shattering or innovative here, but it's a very pleasant and surprisingly competent effort for an initial outing. Overall, a pretty good early first cup of Joe Friedman. Recommended. A bonus video is included.

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