"Being considered one of the greatest bass players in the history of jazz (alongside Blanton, Mingus and very few others), Brown had a great rapport with many pianists. This CD is, however, an interesting combination of a current colaborator (Green), an old pal (Peterson), some new forces Brown was always so eager to promote (Moroni, Keezer) and a respected veteran he allegedly hadn't worked with previously (Jamal). They are all allegedly friends with Brown, but it is the music that interests us here, not their friendship.
It is the latter pianist (Ahmad Jamal) who kicks this great album off with some really imaginative and often surprising playing based upon Milt Jackson's "Bags'Grove". Jamal actually merges Jackson-style funk and modern harmonies with witty quotations of and allusions to Ellington (a great pianist Brown had worked with). In addition to that, Jamal interacts with the star of the CD in a fashion that does not reveal that they are new collaborators.
Another gem from Jamal's set is (believe it or not) W. C. Handy's good old "St. Louis Blues", where Jamal (an important protagonist of modern jazz revolution on piano) quotes both Ellington and Charlie Parker ("Now's the Time" pops up unexpectedly), while Ray Brown gets low down, dirty and blue; nevertheless not forsaking his own contributions to the modern jazz revolution. Brown manages to play this blues in a fashion that at the same time evokes classical blues and transcends it into some sort of postmodern pastiche...
Without commenting upon every pianist's contribution, it would be simply silly to miss Benny Green's gentle ruminations on "Lover" and "Just a Gigolo", played in a slow tempo that really gives this popular tune a vast array of new musical meanings (just try to sing the well known lyrics at this tempo and see how they fit the song).
And then there is absolutely silly Erroll Garner impersonation by the Italian pianist Dado Moroni on Coltrane's "Giant Steps"; something that contributes very much to the overall feeling of jazz history being treated as a goldmine Brown and his associates freely dig through... It also made me think of the way Garner played Rodgers' and Hart's "Lover", quite different than Green's mainstream fashion...
Naturally, Oscar Peterson is also here on "St Tropez" and "How Come You Do Me"; although I have heard him sounding better in previous years, this is still a very pleasant occasion, a musical reunion of two giants with similar approach to rhythm, melody, inovation and tradition in jazz...
Great, great, great album! It is only pity that the front cover is the collage of pianists' photos, instead of the beautiful photo of Brown (with transparent hand that carresess the neck of his instrument) also included in the CD.
The format of this music is classical to the extreme - piano, bass and the quite competent drums of Lewis Nash, but the spirit is very (post)modern, so I'm quite surprised that a jazz record guide I consulted recently described the pianists on this CD as (more or less coherent) group of Peterson's desciples, which would make the album somewhat predictable and monotonous. I strongly, strongly, strongly disagree."
Who Among Them Is The Best Piano Player?
Rebecca*rhapsodyinblue* | CA USA | 05/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the world of jazz, Ray Brown was a household name. He was one of the most sought-out bassists in his time. He had been a sideman to many great jazz legends, but in this album, "Some of My Best Friends Are...The Piano Players," he is on the center stage with some of his best friends such as Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, Benny Green, Geoff Keezer and Dado Moroni. Also present in these sessions is drummer Lewis Nash who lends support to thirteen notable jazz tunes.
Recorded in 1994/1995 and released in 1995 under Telarc, this is the first album in the series of five - the rest are Some Of My Best Friends Are...The Sax Players (1996), Some Of My Best Friends Are...Singers (1998), Some of My Best Friends Are...The Trumpet Players (2000) and Some of My Best Friends Are...Guitarists (2002). These CDs are all worthy to be added to any jazz lover's collection. These are the perfect representations of Brown's extraordinary mastery of his instrument.
While all the tracks are sure to delight jazz fans, my personal favorites are Ahmad Jamal's rendition of a Gershwin classic, "Love Walked In," Dado Moroni's approach to one of Richard Rodgers' best melodies, "My Romance" and Oscar Peterson's winning technique on his composition, "St. Tropez."
Listen to this CD and let Ray Brown introduce you to some of his best friends...who are piano players. Who among them is the best? "
David M. Perry | Stamford, CT USA | 08/26/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This series of "My Best Friends are..." by legendary bassist Ray Brown are some of the finest jazz recordings around. These are the "Old School" type of jazz arrangements--just Ray, a drummer, Lewis Nash, and five of the finest jazz pianists around, each playing a few tunes with Ray. The pianst "friends" are Benny Green, Ahmed Jamal, Geoff Keezer, Dado Moroni, and genius master Oscar Peterson. If you love jazz, add this to your collection. If you are a bass player, there is plenty to study and absorb, from cool walking bass lines to scintillating solos, plus a lot of the great standards. You can't go wrong with any of the "My Best Friends are..." recordings."
pepperminta | CA | 10/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Love this album....great piano players here...dado moroni...geoff keezer...benny green...i believe oscar peterson is on it. Great rendition of coltrane's "giant steps" - just a great, varied collection of superb piano playing.