Well I had missed the point entirely. He didn't NEED a drummer. He wanted one, specifically the drumming original, Shelly Manne. They had worked together earlier at Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse. To quote Freeman, "This combination gave us the freedom to experiment with a looser time-feel and explore various rhythmic possibilities." There was probably another reason for this long overdue (24years!) reunion of Freeman and Manne as a duo . Percussionist Emil Richards once recalled, "Shelly played music - not drums. He was an innovator on the skins .........and was the liveliest, funniest, most wonderful person to be around."
This 1982 recording, Freeman's last (and also his first after fifteen years away from jazz in the studios), is a remarkable combination of rhythm and lyricism applied to standards and his accessible originals. The CD also includes four alternate takes and the unreleased "Name That Tune." ( Hint: It's by Brahms but this version won't put you to sleep.) The standards are diverse. There's "A Train" with rhythm shifts and that rumbling left; "I'm Old Fashioned" moving from tenderness to swing; a hard driving "Lullaby of the Leaves" and "Blue Monk". Freeman was just meant to play Monk! "Green Dolphin Street" is dramatic with an intriguing waltz improvisation by Freeman and sympathetic percussive fills by Manne Freeman's originals illustrate his composing versatility with moods ranging from romance to excitement. "Loose as a Goose" is particularly interesting with its in-and-out-of tempo feel.
In small groups, ego has to take second place to empathy. You have to listen, especially in duets - one step away from a solo. Freeman's liner notes describe the two at one point alternately playing counterpoint and melody. Now, when a pianist talks about a drummer playing melody, that's empathy!
A rare opportunity to hear two masters in an unusual combination.