What: Maxwell Friedman Group CD release party

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Where: Crux Fermentation Project, 50 SW Division St., Bend

Cost: Free

Contact: parallel44presents.com or 541-385-3333

Maxwell Friedman wrote the song “Neblar” when he was 12 or 13, but the concept of “Neblar” goes back further than that.

Friedman, 15, a keyboard and Hammond organ prodigy (and Hammond Artist) who started playing at age 8, is from Neblar — a fictional planet that his mother, Kory Friedman, named when he was a kid. And if you’re a creative-type who is constantly in motion, jumping from idea to idea and project to project, you just might be from Neblar, too, Friedman said.

“It’s been a cultural story in my family for the musicians and artists who come from Neblar who have their own sets of strengths and weaknesses, and they overcome their weaknesses and become amazing people,” Friedman said recently while sitting with Maxwell Friedman Group guitarist Gabe Johnson in the latter’s rehearsal space in Bend. “It’s kind of a long-running inside joke; it has a whole irony behind it in a sense because you can see someone and you’ll be able to tell if they’re from Neblar.”

So how can you tell? Neblarians, as Friedman puts it, have a very unique style. “They may have taken inspiration from a lot of people, but they’re developing their own style and their own truth,” he said.

There’s also the drive for self-improvement — to take that almost schizophrenic creativity and use it to one’s advantage.

“If I didn’t have proper guidance from my parents, I’d probably be late to stuff a lot and not have all my stuff together,” Friedman said. “… But I’ve learned over years and years and years to become more professional, and I’ve learned from certain people who I’m not going to name drop how not to be a professional as well. So going back to Neblar, people who are Neblarian in the crazy, weird, paradoxical, ironic sense, they turn their weaknesses into their strengths.”

That’s the crux of the idea behind “Beyond Neblar — Live in Bend,” the title of the Maxwell Friedman Group’s debut album. Although it has been out since late April, the CD will get a proper release show at Crux Fermentation Project on Friday. (CDs will cost $10 at the show.)

Recorded during a set at McMenamins Old St. Francis School in November 2018, “Beyond Neblar” showcases the rapid development of Friedman’s eponymous group — Johnson, bassist Mark Karwan and drummer Conner Streeter — since its live debut in March 2018. The quartet, which initially formed in December 2017 as a trio before the addition of Johnson early last year, spent last year racking up high-profile shows with like-minded artists such as Ural Thomas & The Pain, Kung Fu, Orgone and The Funky Knuckles, and was a highlight at last year’s 4 Peaks Music Festival and Bend Roots Revival.

“Beyond Neblar” features seven original songs and two covers, all instrumentals, that showcase the band’s jazz-funk-soul-fusion attack. It was co-produced by Friedman, Johnson and Friedman’s father, Jason Friedman, while Matthew Fletcher engineered and mixed the album at Central Oregon Recording. Friedman and Johnson whittled the final album down from a three-hour set.

“It’s not that we didn’t like the other songs; these songs just had more energy of the intimacy between the band and the audience and the space,” Friedman said. “… I’d say I did not go into the album having songs I wanted on there, probably except for ‘Neblar.’ That’s one that has to be on there because that’s a very important song. I’m very happy ‘Father Figure,’ which is a song I wrote for my dad, got to go on there.”

The covers include a version of the theme from the film “2001” adapted from Vermont jam band Phish’s arrangement, and Jimmy Smith’s “Root Down (and Get It).”

“We decided to play ‘Root Down’ because Jimmy Smith was one of the pioneers who brought the Hammond organ out of churches and into the jazz scene,” Friedman said.

With the album out, the group is focused on expanding its reach out of Bend. Johnson, who manages Friedman and is also well-known for his work with Parallel 44 Presents and In the Pocket Artists, helped Friedman sign with New York-based agency Juicy Physics Touring, which should lead to the band’s first shows in Eugene, Seattle, Ashland and San Francisco. The band will play its first Portland show opening for New Mastersounds at the Wonder Ballroom on Oct. 5. (That same bill will play the Domino Room on Oct. 2.)

Friedman also will be artist-at-large at this year’s 4 Peaks (along with Bend violin prodigy CJ Neary), which runs June 20 through 23, and at the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, California, July 4 through 7. While he is a longtime veteran of both festivals (he has only missed one 4 Peaks in the festival’s history) and has sat in with plenty of artists over the years, including a memorable set with Karl Denson at 4 Peaks in 2017, this is the first time he will be an official artist-at-large at either festival.

“I’ve had sit-ins like the one with New Mastersounds at 4 Peaks where the band doesn’t know who you are or what your playing style is and how long you’ve been playing for, so essentially they’re taking the risk,” Friedman said. “And I was talking to New Mastersounds and the drummer (Simon Allen) was talking about, ‘Oh yeah, we invited you to sit in and I was like, oh man, what if this kid sucked?’ But he said, ‘You totally un-sucked,’ which is a really, really nice thing to say coming from an international funk band. So having that name, it’s kind of like a résumé hovering above your head that makes it easier for bands to say, ‘OK, he’s an artist-at-large at this festival; we can give him a shot.’”

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