Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Don Friedman: Going Home

Nate Chinen reflects on the unsung brilliance of the late pianist

Don Friedman

Don Friedman was 25, a postbop pianist just starting to make his name in New York, when he played on the sessions for Booker Little’s Out Front. The year was 1961, the label was Candid, and Little-a trumpeter and composer with a stunningly progressive harmonic imagination-was creating his masterwork, though he probably didn’t know it at the time. The album featured Max Roach on drums and percussion, Eric Dolphy on reeds and flute, Julian Priester on trombone and either Ron Carter or Art Davis on bass. Friedman was the only white musician of the bunch, and the least prominent among them. But he held his own. A few months later he appeared on a sequel of sorts, Booker Little and Friend, on Bethlehem Records.

Friedman, who died in June at 81, had a rich and far-ranging jazz career, as both a sideman and a leader. He worked for many years with trumpeter Clark Terry, who in his memoirs called him “a skillful and incredible pianist.” He served brief but respectable stints with flutist Herbie Mann, saxophonist Charles Lloyd and drummer Elvin Jones. His own albums, from the early ’60s on, exemplify a graceful and articulate school of center-left jazz modernism; the most recent at the time of his death was Nite Lites, a sparkling trio date with the bassist Harvie S and the Austrian drummer Klemens Marktl, released on Fresh Sound last year.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published