Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Friedman, Don (Donald Ernest)
Friedman, Don (Donald Ernest), pianist, composer; b. San Francisco, CA, 4 May 1935. With the exception of a few years in San Bruno, he lived in San Francisco until the age of 15. His mother, Alma Loew (b.1903, Hamburg, Germany), immigrated to the USA around 1923. His father, Edward Friedman (b.1903, Lithuenia), immigrated to the USA as an infant, and grew up in New York City. He studied opera singing. Don's first piano teacher was Catherine Swint (1940-1950, classical). He then studied jazz piano with Sam Sax (1953-54). He took classical lessons with William Beller (1960-61) then studied composition with David Simon (1963-64). He majored in music at Los Angeles City College, 1953-55.
He started working as a jazz pianist around the L.A. area around 1954, or 53, with Buddy Colette, Shorty Rogers, and Dexter Gordon. Also, he did a gig with Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman, and jammed with them and Billy Higgins many times. He got a chance to go to NY for the first time in 1956, when Buddy Defranco was organizing a quintet to tour for nine months. They spent a couple of those months in NY, and the rest touring the east, midwest and Canada. After that tour, he went back to California and played briefly with Chet Baker at the Blackhawk in San Francisco. That band included Philly Joe Jones on drums, Doug atkins, bass, and Pepper Adams. Then he played in L.A. with Chet and Scott Lafaro, Lawerence Marable, drums, and Richie Kamuka, tenor sax. Soon after that, he had the chance to live with some friends of his who had a small apartment in NY. He moved there in 1958,and has lived there ever since.
He started doing some gigs with Teddy Kotick, bass, and Nick Stabulus, drums.Aaround that time, Scott Lafaro moved in with him and they worked together with Al Levitt, drums, backing the singer Dick Haymes. He made his first recordings in L.A..around 1955 with Hank de Mano, Jack Millman and Buddy Collette. He made his first trio records in NY when he signed with Riverside Records. He made three trio albums, two of which got 5 star ratings from Downbeat. He was also voted as pianist most deserving wider recognition in Downbeat.
He became friends with Atilla Zoller around 1960,and when Herbie Mann was looking for a piano player, Atilla, who was in his band, told Don to sit in when they were at Birdland. Herbie hired him on the spot and Don stayed in his group for about a year, making his first trip to Japan. While Atilla and Friedman were in Herbie's band, they started experimenting with "free jazz", and that led to their recording a couple of records in that style. Also, he started working with Jimmie Giuffre, who was also experimenting with that type of jazz. He also was a part of two rather historic recording projects of the trumpeter Booker Little that included Max Roach, Eric Dolphy, George Coleman, and Reggie Workman. Booker's original pieces and arrangements were at the forefront of the music of that period.
From about early 1974 to about 1980, he primarily played with a commercial kind of lounge group. It wasn't very productive musically but it paid the bills. His daughter was born in that period. Around 1980, he began to go to Europe and he became part of a group called Reflexionen. It was led by a swiss saxaphonist, Urs Leimgruber. They did several extensive European tours, and made three records. During that period, he also toured Japan with a Japanese bass player, Eiji Nakayama. They did a few duo tours, and two trio tours with Eliot Zigmund on drums. They also recorded several albums.
During the 90's, he continued recording, some trio cds and a solo cd as part of the Concord Maybeck series. He also became a member of the Clark Terry Quintet. He's worked with Clark off and on since the 60's, but it's been the 90's that he's toured and recorded most extensively with Clark. We also played in NY at the Vanguard, the Blue Note and the Iridium. They are still together as a group and continue to appear in NY.
Recently, he did two tours in Japan with Akira Tana and Charles McPherson. They also did a quartet cd, and he did a duo cd with McPherson. This year, he did a solo piano tour in Japan and has recently recorded his latest trio cd with George Mraz and Louis Nash. He went to Europe in the fall to play in Belgium, and also to play and teach in Switzerland. Teaching has been a part of his career for many years. He started teaching jazz piano at NYU around 1970 and continue to do so till this day. In addition, he coaches a jazz small group ensemble at NYU. Recently, he began teaching at Sarah Lawrence College.
Don is married to Marilyn Friedman. He has a daughter from a former marriage, Lynn Friedman (b. 1974.
Complete discography at http://www.jazzdiscography.com/Artists/Friedman/
Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland, recorded July 24, 1995
Don Nelsen: Don friedman. A Pianist for All Seasons, in: Down Beat (22.Oct.1964)
Anon.: Interview with Don Friedman, in: The Note, 5/2 (May 1993)