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Dan Freedman, composer and pianist “…defines the living edge of jazz piano harmony!”

Review of Dan's Art Attack CD - Wildy Haskell


Dan Freedman - Art Attack
2008, Four Hearts Music

Prodigal Sons always return home. So it is with Dan Freedman, who returns to his roots as a jazz pianist after 20 years as a software entrepreneur. Showing how close a musician always stays to their music, it took nothing more than an early 2008 concert performance by Hiromi Uehara to throw Freedman a musical headwind that would turn his life once more to music. Born in London, England, Freedman had a weekly slot on BBC Brighton as "Dan The Piano Man" at eleven years of age. After moving to Canada with his family, Freedman majored in jazz piano performance on his way to completed both bachelors and masters degrees in computer science (hence the 20 year detour). Based now in Honolulu, HI, Freedman was so moved by the performance of Uehara that he began playing again the next day. By the end of 2008, he'd already recorded his debut album,
Art Attack. Freedman has plans for two more albums in 2009, and I think it's safe to say that he's not looking back.

Freedman's press materials say his greatest influences are Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans. It's very evident on first listen to Art Attack that the jazz spirits of Peterson and Evans inform Freedman's musical consciousness. Freedman takes the impressionist style and runs with it on
Art Attack. As with impressionist pianists this can be both a good and not so good thing at times. Freedman finds moment of musical glory embedded in the eight covers and two originals on Art Attack, but also finds moments where the impressions pile up too high upon one another and drown each other out. On balance, the passages and songs that work far outweigh what does not.

Art Attack opens with On Green Dolphin St., a classic played in trio form (piano, drums, bass). It's an egalitarian recording where no one instrument really is subservient to others, like a musical talk show where the instruments converse. There's an Bill Evans vibe that's evident in a relaxed reading of time signatures and the willingness to bend and shape melody lines into pretzels before returning them as they were, unharmed. Freedman pays tribute to Evans on Very Early, re-imagining the Chick Corea/Hiromi Uehara version in a style almost reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi.

Sweet Georgia Brown left me a little bit lost. The Maceo Pinkard classic is performed here as a piano duet, and ultimately that is just too much. The impressionist approach combined with a second piano in duet creates a bit of musical mayhem that was just too much for this listener. Chopsticks is a jaunty series of riffs on classic piano exercise that transforms into, among other things, Rhapsody In Blue along the way. This sounds like it was a lot of fun to play; the sort of divine inspiration that comes when a musician lets themselves have fun with the music.

The absolute highlight of the disc is Freedman's interpretation of Oscar Peterson's
Wheatland for bass and piano. Freedman takes us through the gentle ebb and flow of Peterson's creation with a contrapuntal left hand and a minimalist bass line. Wheatland gets to breathe its own metaphysical melody in an inspired performance. Freedman gives an interesting turn next on The Beatles' Michelle, taking the Lennon/McCarthy classic off the pins of rock music and re-inventing it as classical/jazz hybrid. Freedman focuses on dynamic development throughout the song in moving from an almost Chopin presentation to Van Clyburn before falling back to the melodic heart of the song trailing the acoustic waters from whence it originally arose.

Laughing Child is a Dan Freedman original, and in some ways just doesn't belong on this album. Laughing Child is a pop song at heart with a vocal line that cries out of the piano for a singer and words. Laughing Child could migrate to either Adult Contemporary Pop or Broadway without much difficulty, and serves as a hint regarding the diversity and breadth of writing/performing talent that Freedman possesses. Art Attack closes with the surreal and rhythmic Marimba piece Lives At Stake. Lives At Stake sounds like something that might have shown up in session tapes for an early Pink Floyd album.

Dan Freedman comes home to music after twenty years in the corporate professional realm with an inspired debut album in
Art Attack. While there are moments that don't work as well as other, the effort on the whole is very much worth your time. Mixing the influences of Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Brad Mehldau and others with unique and daring choices about structure, timing and harmony, Freedman takes chances that mostly work while giving us a hint of how broad a swath he might cut musically. With two more albums planned for 2009, this could just be the warm-up. A definite must for impressionist jazz fans, jazz piano fans, jazz-inflected pop fans, or people who enjoy an artist who can take you anywhere at any moment for any reason.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Dan Freedman or purchase a copy of
Art Attack at http://www.dan88.com/. You can also pick up a copy at www.cdbaby.com/cd/danfreedman.

Wildy Haskell - Wildy’s World

Review of Art Attack - Nicole DeLawder

In a sea of scene-stealers backed by auto-tune and personal life dramas, it is nice to get a hold of pure musical talent. No, not My Morning Jacket or some other genre-defying musical endeavor – we’re going back to jazz.

Art Attack by Dan Freedman is a refreshing ping of the ivories, recalling the fundamentals behind music. Freedman’s labor of love reestablishes the importance of jazz on music today, tweaking some favorite standards while integrating a few of his original compositions.

Opening with the 1947 opus by Bronislau Kaper and Ned Washington – “On Green Dolphin Street,” Freedman introduces his listeners to the ongoing, creative conversation between musicians. Upbeat and energetic, this modern take builds on the cohesion of all parts of the trio - Freedman on both piano and bass, and Brazilian drummer Giba Moojen on percussion. Previously recorded by the talents of Miles Davis in 1958, and Bill Evans in 1959, Freedman follows in some of his successors with similar passion and precision.

The livelihood of jazz, taken out of context from today’s constant conglomeration of genres, stems from the passion of the musician behind the music. Freedman is not jazz’s Kayne West - the aura of
Art Attack is one of comfort, familiarity and importantly, creativity. By recreating classics in a lighthearted, dynamic form, each track sympathizes with the foundation of jazz, while utilizing the piano as a voice for its creator. While many of the tracks are classics from Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Maceo Pinkard, there are a few surprises underneath the already adventurous melodic improvisation.

The Beatles’ popular song “Michelle” is now jazz-ified. Or is it “jazzercized’? Either way, Freedman takes McCartney and Lennon’s arrangement and bends it into his own unique structure with the piano’s dynamic harmony. Building softly over the first few minutes, Freedman keeps the underlying structure consistent with the original while constantly integrating his own, virtuosic touch.

While his strengths lay on reformulating jazz (and even pop) standards, Freedman breaks away from the proverbial standards with some original compositions. “Laughing Child” fluctuates between jazz improvisations and ballad-pop with simple arrangements suitable for the opening of a feel-good family movie. Although this tune is not the most noteworthy on the album, Freedman’s exploration into his own creative ventures welcomes more displays of his piano solos and artistic performances.

“Lives at Stake,” the bonus track on the album, is by far the most genre-bending of them all. Relying on a highly processed Marimba, the tune bellows deep melodies creating a resonating, rhythmic experience. “Once I had the sound I wanted, I basically just sat down and recorded it straight into the computer, just a single time, composing on-the-fly,” Freedman said. While the jazz standards are impressive, the looseness of the creativity on this final track leaves the listener insatiable – craving more of this unknown dialogue.

Filled with both familiarity and uncertainty, Dan Freedman creates a few rare arrangements in a world of compositions. Without mimicking, he embodies the spirit of jazz and the dialogue between musicians with rich harmonies, and crossover genres. As a debut,
Art Attack embodies a sampling of satiable sounds that will, hopefully, continue to grow and form into new, musically innovative voyages.

Nicole DeLawder

Review of Art Attack - Dan MacIntosh

The joy Dan Freedman derives from playing jazz piano is obvious. And the range of his chops is sometimes astounding, as this 10-track disc ranges from Bill Evans’s contemplative “Very Early”, to a swinging “Sweet Georgia Brown” (best known by some as The Harlem Globetrotters’ theme song).

Although Freedman’s take of “On Green Dolphin Street” also features drummer Giba Moojen, Freedman mostly plays solo piano throughout this recording. And while Freedman has fun with “Sweet Georgia Brown” – it is, after all, a fun song – he also digs deeply into the work’s rhythmic and melodic possibilities – even going for a few playful left-handed bass note runs. What starts out as something nearly meditative, eventually builds into a rollicking good time.

Freedman also plays two of his own compositions. One is titled “Laughing Child”; the other is called “Lives at Stake”. The latter is particularly noteworthy, as Freedman plays it on a “highly processed Marimba”, whatever that is. This music comes out a little on the weird side, yet it’s still quite creative.

Anyone with the nerve to take on “Chopsticks”, a song worn out by a million one-note show-offs, is either crazy or brilliant. I’ll vote for brilliant after hearing Freedman’s exploration of it, however. Instead of repeating the melody line, which we’ve all heard far too many times, Freedman searches for alternate melodic ideas just to keep it lively and surprising. At one point he even threatens to go into a little bit of “Rhapsody in Blue”, and this medley suggestion somehow sounds perfectly natural in Freedman’s sure hands.

Within a variety packed outing,
Art Attack also slips in one Beatles cover, “Michelle”. The song’s lyric, you may recall, paid homage to a beautifully mysterious girl, made all the more exotic because of her French tongue. Therefore, Freedman similarly invests much aural amazement into his playing. While he does build up a solid wall of chords, much the way McCoy Tyner might have done it, he never lets the song get away from him. At no point does the listener feel unduly distanced from this song’s lovely melody. Beatles music has almost been done to death the way “Chopsticks” has seriously put the rule of diminishing returns to the test. That he found nuance in “Michelle”, amazingly, is a credit to his intuitive talent.

Redoing “Chopsticks” was daring because the material – let’s face it -- is below him, but Freedman reveals an equal amount of guts via his recording of Oscar Peterson’s “Wheatland”. Freedman names both Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett as musical influences. But in this humble writer’s opinion, Peterson was the giant pianist of them all. I once witnessed a concert where Herbie Hancock (clearly, a formidable musician) played on the same bill with Peterson. And after each man had his own set, they joined together on stage, piano-to-piano. I felt bad for Hancock, because – at least on this particular night – he clearly appeared to be out of his league. Lightweight boxers should never get in the ring with the heavyweights, and on this evening, Hancock appeared to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

It’s hard to tell what weight class Freedman belongs in, to continue the boxing analogy. But that’s probably a moot point, since his playing on
Art Attack is so good.

-- Dan MacIntosh

Review of Art Attack - Jason Smith

Currently residing in Honolulu, Hawaii, pianist Dan Freedman’s expressive style of playing washes over you like tidal waves. Art Attack is an impressive debut from a man who’s clearly in love with his instrument of choice, commanding as his fingers fly across the keys but always intent in conveying the melody and mood across to the listener.

Performing standards and original works via solo piano and duets as well as a jazz trio, this album offers a comprehensive view of Freedman’s range as a pianist and a composer. Opening with “On Green Dolphin Street,” the stage is set for a drums/bass/piano conversation and all are given equal space for expression. The interaction between the three allows everyone to improvise while being aware of the boundaries that the song’s framework provides.

Freedman’s strength lies in playing within the boundaries and still being able to challenge them as well. This method comes across best in his renditions of “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “Chopsticks.” The former features him playing against himself in a piano duet. Chaos could ensue with most other musicians, but Freedman understands that carefully placed silence is just as important, if not more so, than the notes that are played. Armed with that knowledge, his approach to “Sweet Georgia Brown” is like watching a great tennis match between two masters: a study in tension, technique, and execution.

“Chopsticks” reveals his uncanny knack for arrangement as a piano tutoring favorite is transformed into a luxurious suite, leaving plenty of room to have fun but always bringing the listener back to the song’s original theme. Such lessons in harmony continue as “Michelle,” a popular Beatles tune, is revisited and released from rhythm altogether. In the process, Freedman is able to extract deeper emotions from the song that were only hinted at previously.

His two original works, “Laughing Child” and “Lives At Stake,” find their inspiration outside of jazz, as the former could easily be a pop crossover piece with the right vocalist. The latter veers sharply into leftfield territory, taking its cues from minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Even as a bonus track, it’s an odd note to conclude the album on, but still fascinating.

Hats off to Dan Freedman for his disciplined yet daring performances. It is because of them that
Art Attack is more than just an album, but a force of nature.

Jason Smith
Both Sides Of The Surface

Review of Art Attack - Annie Reuter

There is a quote I recently came across that read, “Music is what feelings sound like.” This couldn’t be a more perfect explanation of Dan Freedman’s debut album, Art Attack. Entirely instrumental, the listener feels the emotion produced throughout each track – words not needed.

Freedman, an accomplished jazz pianist and composer, shows listeners the true power of music on his release. Full of emotion, Freedman fills the 10-song disc with graceful and moving piano interludes, having the listener easily hear the pure joy he has playing with each stroke of the keys. While only two songs are Freedman originals, you wouldn’t have guessed it as he brings new life into eight of the remaining jazz standards. The album is a nice mix of piano, piano duo, piano/bass duo and piano/bass/drum trio settings.

Perhaps the liveliest track on the album is first track “On Green Dolphin Street.” A jazz infused song, Freedman demonstrates his prowess at the piano in this jazz trio format. A great way to start the album, “On Green Dolphin Street” is one of those songs you can listen to repeatedly and never get tired of. It’s easy to imagine it being played at a fancy restaurant or concert hall. His improvisational skills only heighten the listener’s regard for him throughout, never letting the listener down. Light percussion and bass accompaniment soon enters, only helping the beauty of the song. Second song, “Very Early” transitions well from the first track. In fact, most of the album runs incredibly smoothly into each other. While “Very Early” is mellower, “Solar” follows with a slightly faster and jazzier vibe.

“Wheatland” and “Chopsticks” bring much variation, but never stray from Freedman’s skilled piano playing. In fact, I don’t foresee a non-likable song on this album. “Sweet Georgia Brown” is edgier and livelier than previous tracks while “Lives At Stake” brings much desired percussion accompaniment closing the album. Any way you look at it,
Art Attack is a solid debut album that shows much promise and a long musical career for Freedman.

Annie Reuter


Review of Art Attack - John Brodeur

“With the economy as tight as it is, it’s getting harder for the average American to plunk down their hard-earned cash on a cover charge at the local jazz joint. The good news is, we still have guys like Dan Freedman who can turn our living rooms into dinner clubs. The Hawaii-based jazz pianist and composer recorded his debut disc, Art Attack, at his own Four Hearts Studios, and that very personal touch shows throughout. With a smart mix of original compositions and standards, solos and group works, the album is an engaging, often exciting recording, brimming with enough good ideas to match its performances. In fact, the trio version of “On Green Dolphin Street” that opens the record is among its least interesting attributes; to hear some real ingenuity, skip ahead to “Sweet Georgia Brown”—seriously!—where Freedman overdubs himself into a piano duo, and takes the shopworn tune to unexplored harmonic territory. Freedman is clearly a slave to his craft, and enjoying every minute of it; fans of jazz music should find the same amount of enjoyment in Art Attack.”

--John Brodeur

Review of Art Attack - Kelly O'Neil

“Jazz music traverses multitudes of circuits and thus possesses a broad spectrum of aficionados. People who like music like some form of jazz, whether it is the fast-paced, ear-splitting bebop, to the cool, groovin’ Latin jazz, to the easy-listening smooth jazz. Dan Freedman is an expert at many styles and knows his way around the keyboard. With his incredible talents, one ponders as to why he did not pursue his musical career sooner.

Art Attack, Freedman’s debut, is a delight. He embraces every tune and makes it his own, making the quick runs sound effortless and the slow ethereal pieces timeless. Two juxtaposing covers that display such attributes are the familiar “Chopsticks” and the Beatles’ “Michelle.” The melody is quasi-distinguishable in snippets but it is more of a friendly reminder as opposed to an aural scavenger hunt. Freedman takes his piano virtuosity to another level in the piano duet “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Since he is playing both overlaying tracks there is no competition between the parts in terms of tone and rhythm. Instead, both parts intertwine with amazing fluidity. The tempo seems to teeter on the edge of losing control due to the busy running eighth notes but this slight fault can easily be remedied as Freedman continues his musical journey with a busy year of touring and completing two new albums.

In addition to his tasteful use of bass and drums in a few choice covers, Freedman excels at carrying the melody himself as evident in the masterful rendering of Bill Evans’ “Very Early” and Freedman’s original songs. “Laughing Child” is a simpler piece in terms of its listenability to those who grow weary of intricate scalar work. This tune is easily accessible and could be expanded upon with any number of instrumental variations. It also plays extremely well as a solo piece when played with stellar musicality as is Freedman’s forte. His other solo work is a fun quirky number for marimba entitled “Lives At Stake.” It is such a deviance from the rest of the album and yet also fits in nicely as an amusing kicker to a collection of well crafted and finely executed pieces. Freedman’s chops are impressive and the jazz world should anxiously be awaiting more cunning music from this talented pianist.”

-Kelly O’Neil

Review of Art Attack - Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Ah, to be in a Honolulu paradise banging away a New York Minute or two with only a care for the moment expunged from your jiving fingertips on a grand piano fit for Carnegie or Radio City…

With standup bass and percussion, Dan Freedman can whip up a nostalgic frenzy on his piano with enough finesse to queue up Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea and Vince Guaraldi. Have a go with his tune “On Green Dolphin Street” for evidence. By his lonesome, Freedman reveals a knack for improvisation to familiar melodies with jazz piano revisionism on his album
Art Attack.

Though he could easily hold sentry on the minstrel stool of any nightclub or Nordstrom’s (for the record, the man has provided compositions for films and advertisements), Freedman’s playing is far more footloose and sometimes dreamier than being relegated a Liberace-for-hire. The twinkling melancholy whispering through the seven minutes of Freedman’s “Very Early” and then the aspirant “Wheatland” is more akin to a pleasing coffeehouse savoir faire, if not a private audience where Freedman has plenty of control yet lets himself swim confidentially in the base of his carefree renditions.

Noting on his business card “rich jazz harmonies that don’t lose the melody,” the proof positive is to hear his take on Ben Bernie and company’s “Sweet Georgia Brown.” You’ll undoubtedly be thinking Harlem Globetrotters as anyone does within the first few bars of the 1949 version by Brother Bones & His Shadows; however, Freedman’s take is closer in spirit to the ragtime era in which it was conceived. His fingers shuck and tap a shambling rhythm on the low notes while dancing madcap in the higher leads, cheerfully extemporizing Dixie doodle overtop hints of the core melody.

While most people snicker at the childish tappity-taps of Alexander Borodin, et.al.’s “Chopsticks,” Freedman takes the primary waltzing flavor of the song and dashes tertiary elegance amidst his pumping scales, creating an imaginative and spritely reinterpretation to something universally-known and otherwise considered by many to be trite.

Proving he can stylishly do-up more contemporary songs, Freedman methodically lavishes The Beatles’ “Michelle” with determined post-melody structures with almost the same dramatic flair as Yoshiki did for Kiss’ “Black Diamond.”

Freedman’s self-written and arranged “Laughing Child” is one of
Art Attack’s sweetest and most poignant moments—a genuine labor of love—while the album’s bonus track “Lives at Stake” gives the listener a tribal percussive conduct, sending off this unique endeavor with the same culture clash bravado as Art Blakey’s roots-meets-jazz masterpiece Drum Suite.

Aloha, Mr. Freedman…

Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Review of Art Attack - Matheson Kamin

Dan Freedman is a pianist who is currently living in Honolulu, Hawaii. This is a long way from his native country of England, where he had become a household name with his weekly “Dan The Music Man” radio spots on BBC radio.

The radio program took place while Dan was still in his youth. But after completing bachelors and masters degrees in computer science, the world lost a true musical talent. It wasn’t until 20 years of being a software entrepreneur that he found himself in Hawaii. It was there that the true musician in him came calling. Now after only about one year from that time, Dan Freedman is back being a musician making many an appearance as a guest musician in concerts, as well as the leader of his own jazz band. It is this newly refocused musician that has just released a new album entitled “Art Attack”.

It is on “Art Attack,” the new release by Dan Freedman, that you find three different styles of jazz by the musician. You can hear solo pieces, piano duets (with Dan playing both parts), and pieces in a jazz trio setting.

On most jazz releases, you will find that the musicians usually fall into two categories: the “I only play the compositions the way the composers meant them to be played” frame of mind, or the “I only play my own compositions” frame of mind. Though there are exceptions to the rule, rarely do you find someone who will take the opportunity to arrange a piece to fit their own playing style. But this is exactly what makes “Art Attack” by Dan Freedman so enjoyable: The compositions that Dan chose to be part of the album have been arranged by him in such a way that they sound unique, as if no one else had played them before. This is the reason why this album is such a breath of fresh air.

The two best arrangements on the album belong to “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “Chopsticks”. “Sweet Georgia Brown” is one of the few instances on the release when Dan adds a second piano track to a song. This creates a very unusual and entertaining take on the song that has become best known as the “theme song” for the Harlem Globetrotters. But the most unusual arrangement on the album belongs to the song “Chopsticks,” the song most people know as the tune that is played by two fingers on the piano keyboard. With Dan’s version, however, the melody starts the song off and then only peeks its head out once in a while throughout the performance of the song. This gives the song a very unique feel to it.

For all of the instrumentation on the album, Dan plays all of the piano and bass parts. For the song “On Green Dolphin Street,” Giba Moojen performed the drum part. While there are great pianists elsewhere, very few can also play the bass. This sets Dan apart from many of the other pianists out there right now.

Dan Freedman has recorded an album of jazz that is both creative and fresh, and also a joy to listen to. If you are a fan of jazz music and would like to find an album by one of the best jazz pianists on the planet, check out “Art Attack” by Dan Freedman. You can find Dan Freedman online by going to his website at

-- Mathesin Kamin