In 1998 I had an apartment with two roommates in Williamsburg. We were there for four years and we never really unpacked. Cigarettes spilled out of coffee cups on every available surface. Pizza boxes would sit on the floor for weeks. You know, college. At night we’d watch TV. Only we had no TV to speak of; I mean one was there, but it wasn’t plugged into the cable and didn’t get reception so if you turned it on all you got was a blue screen that filled the room with what we thought was a pretty cool David Lynch kind of vibe.
The stereo however was a hand me down from my entry-level audiophile father and it worked well. So we’d listen to albums. There was probably about six months where we listened to Kenny Wheeler’s “Angel Song” every day. One of our favorites, however, was the semi-obscure Booker Little record that Frank Kimbrough had hipped us to, called Out Front. Out Front is the strangest, most beautiful, scariest record I can think of. Scary in its relentless juxtapositions of sweetness and dissonance, scary in its shifting meters and warped harmonies, scary in the clarity of its evocations of beauty, scary the way Max Roach plays timpani, scary that this music was written over 50 years prior and still feels like its from the future. Eric Dolphy, Julian Priester, Ron Carter and Art Davis, Max Roach and our man Don Friedman. His voice doesn’t ring out over the music, but everything he plays is gold.
When we were first looking for projects to produce, at the very top of my list was a project with Don, returning to some of these beautiful Booker compositions. For two days this last September, Don brought an extraordinary rhythm section featuring Phil Polombi and Shinnosuke Takahashi to East Side Sound. They weren’t trying to recreate sounds from the record but really used these tunes as jumping off points in the true jazz tradition. I cannot wait to share this record with the world.
– Elan Mehler
Newvelle Records Co-Founder and Artistic Director
Read the liner notes for Strength and Sanity by Don Friedman.
Now available as part of Newvelle Season One.
Photo of Don Friedman © William Semeraro