Understated sophistication that aims for the heart

David Friedman’s “Weaving through motion
by Stefan Bauer | Fri, 01/09/2015 – 03:11

Understated sophistication that aims for the heart.

Whoever knows me knows how fond I am of vibraphonist David Friedman’s music (though it may not be obvious from my own playing). But notwithstanding this decades-old bias, you might share my opinion that in his new solo recording “Weaving . . .” Mr Friedman is again convincing with the full weight of his irresistible sound. “His touch” would be the heading for a number of parameters that his style is composed of. The actual touch – as in attack – is the first one that comes to my mind. And mind-boggling it is still, 35+ years after I first held a Friedman album in my jittery palms (“Futures Passed”) and it first caught my ear. The German “Anschlagskultur” would be a more precise word for the ability to extract an attractive sound from a piece of metal (as well as wood, however attractive in itself already).

Another one of his tools is the almost imperceptible use of dynamics – imperceptible because it simply becomes an inextricable part of the overall musical narrative. At this point a nod to the sound engineer Wolfgang Loos is in order. Friedman’s already exceptional use of dynamics and his ability of telling a story through music is being enhanced by the almost 3-D-like recording and the unbelievably sensitive sound-mix which turns swelling marimba tremolos and glistening vibraphone arpeggios into a physical experience, a sort of “bathing in sound”.

But if “musical narrative” sounds like a matter of easy choice for an effective parameter, I think I – or you – might be mistaken. It’s an art rooted in an early-on decision to “really” improvise, no matter the musical environment, according to the context at hand rather than spitting out pre-learned phrases at machine-gun tempo. I believe that the commitment to this kind of “truthful” improvisation manifests itself in timeless quality.

Friedman is not young in years, but his music is as timeless as ever as a result of having the listener bear witness to the act of real creation rather than sensationalism! His melodic and harmonic choices reveal an artist who, in spite of his very determined appearance, still is searching. All this is framed and tied together by an uncanny sense of timing, both in the way Friedman subdivides and rhythmically interprets a groove as well as the overall shape and drama of a piece of music. This is true for both his own compositions and improvisations as well as for his highly individualistic interpretations of standards like “’Round Midnight”, and especially “the windmills of your mind”. The way marimba and vibes are being paired with each other here reminds one of a time when Friedman and his
congenial partner, David Samuels, quietly introduced and then established the unheard-of duo format of marimba and vibes to bigger audiences under the name “Double Image”, starting with the stunningly beautiful and expressive LP “Winter Love, April Joy” and following with a number of no less beautiful duo recordings over the decades, albums with music and musical collaboration far beyond specialty content or hyper-technical self-promotion. Back to “Weaving . . .”: technique – yes, plenty, but all in the service of music, and thereby rendering its perception almost superfluous once again.

Friedman manages the seemingly contradictory feat of entertaining and feeding food to the ears, food whose seemingly easy-to-digest content belies its sophistication: I can write (I won’t mention dishes) while enjoying its sound, I can listen intently and analyze form and content. Or I may just give myself to the aural and emotional sensations triggered by a very knowledgeable and truly inspired artist.

Thank you Mr. Friedman.

Stefan Bauer is a german Vibraphone and Marimba Player