Janice Friedman established her career path early on — fed (by her pianist mother) a diet of Errol Garner, Oscar Peterson, Marian McPartland, Bill Evans and Ahmad Jamal; playing organ and then piano before starting kindergarten; seriously studying classical piano and then jazz piano while playing for school and private events well before high school. After earning a jazz studies degree from Indiana University and touring with the Woody Herman Orchestra, she made her way back to her native New York, soon appearing at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Town Hall and many of Manhattan’s famed jazz clubs, and eventually touring with pianist Marian McPartland’s as well as performing on her NPR show Piano Jazz.
Three albums furthered her reputation — her own Tryptych: A Trio of Trios, Finger Paintings and Swinging for the Ride, her first displaying her vocal as well as keyboard talents–as did her contributions to many other artists’ recordings. Then came her long-awaited solo project, Solo: Half and Half, covering a swath of twentieth-century music from Fats Waller and Hoagy Carmichael to Duke Ellington and Lennon & McCartney. From ballads to boogie, from swing to bop, these mostly familiar musical choices are given fresh interpretation, along with one original composition.
Her most recent release, Janice Friedman Trio: Live at Kitano, is her fifth as a leader, featuring the famed Victor Lewis on drums and Ed Howard on bass. The Kitano is the perfect setting to enjoy Janice Friedman and her trio, as I heard for myself during a New York visit a few years ago. This is a musician with chops to burn on two instruments — piano and voice, with a deep well of compositional as well as improvisational ideas, many muses but a very individual style.
Janice is currently at work on an original musical, Survival of the Fittest. Whether by sheer stubbornness, artistic wizardry, or good fortune, she’s still making music that moves us through all the twists and turns of a century of jazz piano, judiciously adding human voice to a keyboard that never stops talking.