As he turns 70, Don Friedman is on a roll. Timeless is his third strong trio album on the 441 label. All three offer excellent sound quality, but Timeless is best. Yoshiro Suzuki recorded it to Sony's state-of-the-digital-art DSD system at Avatar Studios in Manhattan.
The first two 441 albums (Waltz For Debby and My Favorite Things) featured George Mraz and Lewis Nash. The new album has John Patitucci and Omar Hakim. The self-dramatizing, preening flourishes of drummer Hakim are not an upgrade from Lewis Nash, but bassist Patitucci is an upgrade from nearly anyone. His power and daring can galvanize any ensemble, including Wayne Shorter's, but here he is all about airy energy and dancing solos.
Somewhat surprisingly, given that Friedman is a spellbinding ballad player, this program of eight standards contains only two, "Turn Out the Stars" and "'Round Midnight." Even "Emily" is pushed into double time. But Friedman (like his primary inspiration, Bill Evans) is so innately lyrical that even his fast pieces, in their contemplative resonance and poignancy, feel slow inside.