In Memory of Don Friedman

Pianist Don Friedman was part of a cohort of progressive jazz pianists born between 1929 and 1938, which included Bill Evans, Paul Bley, and Steve Kuhn. His recordings with Attila Zoller are all time favorites of mine. The opportunity to present such a historically and musically important artist in my home ( was not to be missed. This recording is the result. --Frank Hanny

--Don Friedman

I first met Don Friedman in 1969 nine months after I was honorably discharged from the Army. Like most young men in 1967 we were all drafted during the Vietnam War. Upon returning to New York City I needed to find a steady gig so I auditioned for the music director at the New York Playboy Club and got the gig as a utility bass player. This meant that I could play in the show band one night and the next night in a piano trio or duo. Here I was this rookie bass player with the great Don Friedman who at that time was a seasoned jazz musician 12 years my elder. He was so kind, real and sweet to teach me tunes and the harmonic structures of various bass lines much like bass continuo that Bach wrote. Don had a very strong background in classical piano and he began playing piano at a very young age. When his family moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles Don who was now fifteen he discovered jazz. His early jazz piano influence was Bud Powell, and he briefly studied composition at Los Angeles City College.

On the West Coast, Don performed with everybody Dexter Gordon, Chet Baker, Buddy DeFranco, Ornette Coleman and many other jazz greats He was also a member of Clark Terry's big band. He moved to New York permanently in 1958 and shared an apartment with the great bass player Scott LaFaro. In the 1960s, he played with both modern jazz and more traditional musicians. This included Eric Dolphy, Jimmy Giuffre, Booker Little, and Attila Zoller; the latter included Bobby Hackett and Herbie Mann. Don’s first album as a leader was A Day in the City, in 1961. Some of his early albums received top ratings from DownBeat, which also gave him its critics' poll New Star award.

I continued my friendship with Don after the Playboy gig ended. Due to family responsibilities I stopped playing for a while. In 2014 Don wanted to come out to the west coast and by that time I was living in San Francisco raising a family, back playing the bass and teaching. I was able to put together a small tour for Don and this recording is from a concert we did on November 9, 2014 at Frank Hanny’s “Chez Hanny” a private concert for jazz lovers in San Francisco Bay Area. This was originally a duo concert piano and bass however I asked the great drummer Akira Tana who had recorded earlier with Don on a Charles McPherson recording if he would overdub the drums. Akira did a great job and we now have a trio recording.

Marilyn Friedman Don’s wife, Akira Tana and I wanted to honor the memory of Don Friedman and give listeners an opportunity to hear his wonderful music. I hope you enjoy this live recording at Chez Hanny’s. We played many of Don’s original compositions and some jazz standards. This is a tune Don wrote called Chopin-esque based on Chopin’s Etude No 6 in E-flat minor opus 10.

In Memory of Don Friedman
With Love and Respect to a Great Artist Marilyn Friedman, Frank Tusa & Akira Tana