Contemporary Jazz

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Don's Day Trip

12 NOV 08 CHRIS SLAWECKI

The Don Friedman Trio's A Day In The City is the type of acoustic improvisational jazz generally called "impressionist" because it paints distinct, specific miniature portraits in subtle pastel sounds.

Pianist Don Friedman, bassist Chuck Israels and drummer Joe Hunt devote Friedman's "Six Jazz Variations on a Theme" to different hours of a typical day in a typically modern city. For Friedman's first recording as a leader, it's ambitious work.

Friedman's trio often sounds like Bill Evans', especially when Israels (who was also working with Evans in '61) takes his eloquent yet understated solos in "Dawn" and "Rush Hour." But Friedman's piano sound feels less cryptic and more lyrical than Evans', with a dramatic, passionate flair like a Russian classical pianist in "Sunset" and "Early Evening."

"Rush Hour" is his most vibrant and effective portrait. Cymbals and bass bob and throb with the pulse of a hurried freeway, as they race to keep pace with Friedman's frantic, fleet-fingered dashes through their traffic. Friedman even writes in a few "stop signs" where we pedestrians can catch our breath. Israels' bowed bass injects the sound of deep, dark mystery into "Night" as it unfolds, but Friedman's energetic playing makes this "Night" sound young and made for dancing underneath bright stars, until the final piano notes fade their starlight into silent black.