Just Friends was written by John Klenner in 1931, and was played and recorded by most of the jazz greats, including Parker, Billie Holliday, Sonny Stitt, Chet Baker and Frank Sinatra. One of the most accomplished renditions of the tune was recorded by Dodo Marmarosa in 1962. It was later released as an album titled Jug & Dodo, with tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons playing on some of the tracks.
This excellent piano interpretation of ‘Just Friends’, along with Georgia, Yardbird Suite, and several others on the album, represent Marmarosa’s perfect technique and masterly improvisation gifts. Sadly it was the perfectionist Marmarosa’s last recorded work. His career had begun with the Gene Krupa Orchestra and he recorded with the great master Charlie Parker in the 1940’s, but then returned to Pittsburgh and relative obscurity. Long plagued by mental health problems, he died in a veteran’s hospital in 2002 without recording after 1962.
‘Just Friends’ must stand as one of the all-time great romantic ballads, combining melody and lyrics. The German-born Klenner came to the USA and composed mostly classical works and this one masterpiece.