Happy jazz is what came to mind when I first listened to Joe Friedman’s debut offering, Cup O’ Joe, and that’s despite his blues under- and overtones. His fluttering licks, the walking, thundering bass of Peter Washington, the steady rat-tat-tat of drummer/producer Neal Smith, and the tender manipulations of pianist George Colligan make this a truly wholesome piece of work.
Good, solid, and almost pristine melodies cascade over the landscape of this production in flawless fashion. The stuff taught in schools of blues and jazz as where one must be before even considering a career here.
Tunes like Thelonius Monk’s "Bolivar Blues" and his own happy title cut lead one to suspect that this adept guitarist will not be a one-hit wonder but, rather, part of the jazz fabric for years to come. Cool timing fed by the fuel of some distinctive and actually rather funky phrasing make this latter piece a stand-out piece for aficionados of the classic and polished brand of jazz. The brilliance of this piece is pretty representative of the whole brew. It clearly has that rhythmic thick, wake-me-up java feel to it. Just as easily as Friedman can take one there, he can settle you back into that smoky, dimly-lit blues-filled room (take "My Romance," for example) which just envelopes one with some of the most soothing and refreshing tidbits for the fussy ear. He even takes on the classic Isley Brothers’ "Who’s That Lady" in his crystal clear jazzy/bluesy manner and makes it another tune altogether, with the tremendous help of Colligan & Co. Impressive.
Friedman has the precise recipe for a good, hot Cup O’ Joe that can last you through the entire day (and night). The classic/traditional jazz fan, as well as the blues fan, will have no trouble at all savoring this one to the last drop.