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Interview with Don Friedman

There’s at least one element of jazz that has remained the same and that is improvisation.

Today I have the honour to publicise the interview I had with pianist Don Friedman.

Donald Ernest Friedman (born May 4, 1935 in San Francisco California), better known as Don Friedman, is a jazz pianist. On the West Coast, he performed with Dexter GordonChet BakerBuddy DeFranco and Ornette Coleman, among others, before moving to New York. There, he led his own trio in addition to playing in Pepper Adams‘s, Booker Little‘s and Jimmy Giuffre‘s bands in the sixties. He was also a part of Clark Terry‘s big band. He currently works in New York as a pianist and jazz educator.[1] He has many fans in Japan, and has toured the country.[2]

Mr. Friedman, you’re active in Jazzmusic for more than 50 years, that’s a lifetime. Has jazzmusic evolved since you started? We know there are labels for different kinds of music, but (in the core) in what way is jazz nowadadys different from modern jazz?

Yes, jazz music has evolved. When I started out there was very little information available and almost no teachers. So I had to learn by listening to records and going out to play every chance I got. Today, because of the internet and the fact that most colleges have jazz programs, people have tons of information and learning tools.  There’s at least one element of jazz that has remained the same and that is improvisation. All jazz music is primarily improvised. Todays up and coming jazz players are exposed to more different types of music then we were when I was young. That’s why todays jazz is different than “modern jazz”.

Which album you produced do you like best? Why? “My Romance”, is your best appreciated album in The Penguin Guide to Jazz. Is this record your favourite too?

No, I’m most proud of the recording I did at a concert at Jazz Baltica. It’s called Don Friedman The Composer. It is my compositions played by my trio and a string quartet. I loved playing with the strings and since it’s a live performance it has a great intensity and feel.

Do you still visit concerts? (and if  so) Do you still learn from your youthful colleagues? Are you inspired by them?
Bill Evans. He’s been an example for a generation of  pianists. This year it’s thirtytwo years ago he has perished (as many great jazzmusicians passed last three Decades). What does this mean to you?

Bill Evans and his trio had a great influence on me. I loved his concept of group playing and interaction among the players.

The bassist Scott Lafaro was your companion, he died at the start of your carreer. I noticed there has been released  a record with Scott as bandleader in 2009 with you as a pianist accompanied by Pete La Roca.  If there had been no accident, would Lafaro have been your permanent accompanist?

I was very close to Scotty and for me it was terrible that he died so young. I can only imagine all the great music he would have made and I would have loved to play with him whenever possible.

Is there jazz in the future? Jazz is the most recorded musicstyle by now, but do you think jazz will reach our youth?

Yes, I think jazz has a great future thanks in part to all the young people that are taking music and jazz courses in college. Even though most of them will never be professional jazz musicians, they will have a much greater appreciation of the music and they will be the audiences of the future.

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