David Friesen

A Whole Lotta Jazz

And when you’re done grooving with David Friesen, check out the Mozart Requiem from Eugene Symphony

In the mid 1960s, a young jazz bassist named David Friesen found his band playing opposite the classic John Coltrane Quartet at a Seattle club called the Penthouse. Although he sat just a few feet away from some of the most powerful and distinctive players in jazz history, Friesen realized that, at a certain point, their individual personalities had receded, and “the music had risen to the surface.” 

Despite his own phenomenal chops, that’s the state Friesen, now one of the living masters of jazz bass, aspires to achieve whenever he performs.

“In the midst of finding the music, I take my hands off the steering wheel, and it’s the music that leads,” he says. A charter member of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, the Tacoma native has recorded some six dozen CDs as a leader and performed with many of jazz’s most revered names — Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson, Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard and many more.

He has regularly performed in Europe, Japan and across the U.S., and has won critical acclaim everywhere for his melodic, imaginative modern improvisation, which includes folk, classical and Jewish music influences as well as jazz. Several of his acclaimed Circle 3 Trio’s CDs have placed high in critics’ polls.

On Friday, Nov. 15, Friesen’s Circle 3 Trio, this time featuring Eugene’s own tenor sax titan Joe Manis and veteran drummer Charlie Doggett, plays an intimate gig at Broadway House, an ideal place to hear the intricate interplay among master musicians rise to the surface. To reserve seats, contact Paul Bodin at pbodin@uoregon.edu.

Another Eugene-Portland jazz summit happens over at the Jazz Station on Nov. 22, when another of Oregon’s finest saxophonists, UO prof Idit Shner, joins what she calls the Portland Rhythm Section: the superb pianist Dan Gaynor, bassist Jon Lakey and drummer Andres Moreno.

Speaking of requiems, the Eugene Symphony’s concert Thursday, Nov. 14, at the Hult Center features the greatest of them all. For all its acclaim, though, until recently, what we heard performed in concert and on record as his Requiem was not entirely written by Mozart, who died before completing it.

His widow commissioned one of his students (not his frenemy Salieri, despite what a certain movie might have you think) to try to finish Mozart’s mighty final masterpiece, and many scholars think he kinda botched it.

Enter the great pianist and academic Robert Levin, who went back to original sources and imposed his own formidable knowledge as player and scholar to create what many regard as the best of all possible realizations of Mozart’s most moving, dramatic musical monument. When I heard it at the Oregon Bach Festival not long after Levin completed it, it sounded more like Mozart than ever.

More symphonic sounds emerge at Eugene Symphonic Band’s free concert on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 24, at the UO’s Beall Concert Hall. The program features music by one of America’s finest living composers, Northwest native William Bolcom, plus Gustav Holst, operatic music by Bizet and more.

Cascadia Chamber Opera celebrates Gilbert and Sullivan this Sunday, Nov. 16, at Emmaus Lutheran Church on the corner of 18th and Polk. Pianist Nathalie Fortin accompanies six singers in ever charming tunes from Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, HMS Pinafore and more.

We started with a jazz legend; how about ending with a blues/folk legend? Multiple Grammy winning singer/songwriter Taj Mahal brings his half century of American roots music mastery to The Shedd Tuesday, Nov. 19.