Don Friedman

Don Friedman was born in San Francisco on May 4, 1935. His parents were passionate about classical music and owned a piano. Don began playing piano at the age of four under their tutelage. Katherine Swint, a private teacher, taught Don lessons starting at age five. Don learned to improvise even though he was not exposed to jazz music at the time. His family moved to San Fernando Valley, Greater Los Angeles when he was 15. He began going to the Hollywood Palladium regularly two years later to see the bands of Les Brown and Stan Kenton. This fueled his passion for jazz. Don was inspired by Kenton soloists Lee Konitz and Conte Condoli. He also became interested in jazz music. Don studied jazz at Los Angeles City College, and also played along with Miles Davis’ records by Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, and Sonny Rollins. Don began to be a part of West Coast Jazz in Los Angeles by the mid 1950s. He worked with Chet Baker, Ornette Cole, Scott LaFaro, and Shorty Rogers. Dexter Gordon was also a gigging partner. As a sideman, he recorded his first records with Jack Millman and Hank DeMano. Buddy DeFranco hired him in 1956 for a tour that included performances at New York’s Birdland Street and Basin Street. It was a turning point for Don, who decided to move to New York in 1958 after the DeFranco tour. He was a great success in Manhattan’s diverse and vibrant jazz scene. He was a regular player with many of the top players, and his reputation as a pianist who was moving places began to grow. Scott LaFaro, the legendary bass player, also made the move to New York around the same time. They had been close friends in Los Angeles, and they now form a legendary partnership. Don performed in many different settings during this time in New York City, including with his own trio, as well as with other artists like Booker Little and Jimmy Giuffre. From 1961 to 1964, he was a Riverside Records producer’s leader. His trio was his first three LPs. The fourth album featured Attila Zoller (a friend and guitarist from Germany). These records were highly acclaimed. Three of them won five stars in Down Beat (its highest rating), and the fourth received four stars. In 1965, Friedman was named a New star in Down Beat’s annual Critics Poll. In the 1960s, Don started working with Clark Terry in his big band. He still plays in Terry’s hardworking quintet. New York University also offered him a teaching position and he led the jazz ensemble. Don continues to be a sought-after jazz pianist and educator in New York City. He also regularly tours the United States, Europe, and Japan with top-flight bands. His technical proficiency, lyrical style and mastery in solo performance continue to earn him critical acclaim. Friedman can be found playing jazz with Clark Terry and Buddy DeFranco, or avant-garde with the youngest Turks. His recordings are snapped up by collectors in America, Europe, and Japan. He has a large and loyal following. His new trio will be appearing in New York City, and he recently toured Japan. from

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