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July/August 2007

Janice Friedman Trio
Swingin’ for the Ride
Janika Musik

For years, Janice Friedman restricted her vocal efforts to the confines of her home, singing along with her piano improvisations. Then love happened. Friedman got married, and her husband, David Prager, was so impressed with her singing and playing that, she says, “His enthusiasm was the encouragement needed to allow me to … do both.”

Like other instrumentalists turned sometime vocalists Chet Baker, Oscar Peterson and Buddy Rich, Friedman’s innate musicality enables her to make the most of a limited range, parlaying a slightly course, suede-like sound into a style as appealing and intelligent as that of Baker or Annie Ross. Of the five Friedman originals included among the dozen tracks, four might be considered “honeymoon jazz,” filled with sweet sentiments about the joys of newfound amour.

Most intriguing among them is the buoyant title track, a celebration of joie de vivre that sounds curiously like the optimistic counterpoint to Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe.” Offsetting all the confetti-worthy ebullience is Friedman’s cloudy “A Fairytale,” a heartbreaking narrative about a relationship in tatters, wrapped in a subdued Brazilian beat. Among the seven standards that make up the album’s balance are a rich, creamy ballad treatment of “Don’t Blame Me” and a shimmering “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” that echoes the seductiveness of Peggy Lee. Most impressive, though, is a vigorous “A Day in the Life of a Fool,” cunningly underscored by a vaguely dangerous urgency.

Originally published in July/August 2007
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