Don Friedman

The Days of Wine and Roses

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One of the most difficult things about being a jazz musician is learning to accept the the sheer arbitrariness of fame (there is no fortune in jazz). Why is one player enormously famous and another obscure, when to the naked ear they sound equally as compelling? That's a subject for another day, but it's the first thing one may think of when picking up an album by a lesser-known yet enormously talented musician like Don Friedman. Friedman is a tremendously versatile and creative jazz pianist. Few jazz musicians of any stripe are as conversant with both the bop vocabulary and free music techniques. Friedman is utterly convincing in both genres. On this, Friedman and his rhythm section play standards and free improvisations on alternate tracks. The styles are markedly different: The standards swing gently if insistently within the framework of the tunes; the free improvs surge and subside, going in and out of time and touching on tonalities at random. The high degree of invention and sophistication of the players ties the tracks together. Friedman is a powerful pianist with the creamiest of touches; although he's as percussive as he needs to be, at times it seems as if there's a pillow underneath each key. And while he plays it straight on the standards, Friedman possesses a rhythmic elasticity on these tunes that could remind a younger jazz listener of Keith Jarrett. Friedman's free playing is considerably more elegant and polished than that of many full-time avant-garde pianists, but no less creative. The rhythm section and Friedman had never played together before this date; it says something about the nature of improvised music that the music suffers not a whit. In the hands of players as sensitive and gifted as these, a first encounter is just another opportunity for discovery.

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