Fred Fried

Fred loved everything, from early rock and rolling to show tunes as a child in New York. He can still recall listening to the cast albums of Oklahoma and South Pacific, as well as West Side Story. He was a huge fan of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and he used to pretend to be the conductor in front the record player. Fred points out that it was very helpful to have enjoyed different types of music before he started playing the guitar. He says that the musical world before him was much wider than if he had only been able to play guitar. “I knew there was more to life.” Fred was a clarinet player from age 12 and was involved in several junior high school bands, orchestras and other musical ensembles. Fred was a drama major at New York’s High School of Performing Arts when he was a teenager. He can still recall many times listening to the orchestra at school and being amazed by the level of proficiency displayed by his fellow students in the music department. He did not learn to play the guitar until college. At Boston University, he was an English major. He originally planned on becoming a writer. He learned chords from his friends, who were passionate about blues and folk guitar. Soon he was obsessed with the instrument. Fred recalls that “when I started to take serious interest in the guitar, which was nearly immediately after I got it at college, I thought back on my high school musicians friends and realized how much work I still had to do. I thought that most guitarists were better than me, and that I was playing catch-up. It made me work harder.” He was introduced to jazz guitar when he purchased Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell albums. He knew what he wanted after hearing Wes Montgomery. He cites many musicians among his influences. He mentions Wes, Johnny Smith and Jim Hall as his influences. Fred was drawn to the pianoic style of guitar more the more he studied it. Bill Evans was his main influence, but he also listened to and continues to listen great pianists such as Ahmad Jamal and Chick Corea, Mark Copland and Brad Mehldau. Fred says that no matter the instrument, there’s always something to learn from great musicians. Fred first heard jazz guitars live at Boston’s Jazz Workshop, where he saw Kenny Burrell, then George Benson. He recalls that they “astonished me”, and that he “practiced harder” after listening to them. Fred Fried spent five year in Boston before moving to Los Angeles, where he had the opportunity to spend six months studying with George Van Eps. Van Eps is the father of the 7 string guitar. Van Eps’ distinctive style was marked by his rich, complex and deep playing. Fred says that Van Eps’ style was characterized by his richness, complexity, and depth of playing. Fried is an improviser extraordinaire, able to weave single lines with chords and play two lines together. He is a jazz guitarist and composer who uses a pianistic approach to playing, composing, and performing. His music is sophisticated, beautiful, and swinging. Fred will be easy to recognize once you hear him play a few notes. His playing was a combination of classical guitar technique and improvisational abilities. Fred answers questions about why he began playing the 7-string and why he has remained with it. He says that George Van Eps explained to him the extended range of the instrument. The seventh string is just an “A” below the guitarist’s low “E”, greatly expanding the instrument’s range into the lower register. He laughed and warned me that if I start on seven-string, I will never go back to six. He was correct. I was able, on the 7-string, to hit the bass notes one octave lower than they would be on the fifth string. Also, walking bass lines became easier. These were not the only obvious benefits. The new chord voicings that I discovered and continue to discover were less obvious, as the 6th and fifth strings can sound other than root notes. As I began to play more pianoically, I realized it wasn’t necessary to always use roots. My playing has a more modern, open and impressionistic feel.” Fred returned to New York for a four-year engagement at the Windows on the World, atop the World Trade Center, with the Judd Woldin Trio. Later, Fred was featured at Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Room as both a solo guitarist or with a quintet. He returned to New York and led groups at influential Jazz venues like Birdland and Gregory’s.

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