Yes, Friedman got better over the years, or at least different. The early "Circle Waltz" is for some the epitome of modal foo-foo, but for me its genuineness is seductive and moving; Friedman really felt this music.
Here are some very good ones, but I don't know of a Friedman recording that is less than that (too bad "Thingin'" with Konitz [the leader] and Zolllar is OOP and pricey, but it seems to be there as MP3 files):
My late friend Bob Wright -- forgotten mostly because there never was much of his work available on record, etc. A CD of his work is planned to emerge sooner rather than later on Delmark. Some years ago, Terry Waldo put out a superb cassette of Wright playing rags and stride piano. If you can find a copy, you will be blessed. Bob also was a uniquely "modern" player, out of Tristano and Bud Powell. Closest resemblance to this side of Wright probably would be the early playing of his high school years friend Denny Zeitlin.
Interesting but almost totally forgotten -- Billy Wallace, who appears most notably IIRC on Max Roach's "Jazz in 3/4 Time." Wallace had his own two-handed thing -- not locked hands but parallel lines in bass and treble registers -- and was just darn good in general.
Also, Chris Anderson. Known now, if he is that much at all, as a key early influence on Herbie Hancock, but he was MUCH more than that, a harmonic wizard.
Tristano's "Line-Up" -- good grief! Also (less well known) Warne Marsh's solo on "Subconscious-Lee" on "All Music" (Nessa) -- almost two choruses worth of what is more or less a single linear thought that's extended and extended and extended. Afterwards IIRC Warne said that it was the best he'd ever played on that piece/that chord sequence ("What Is This Thing Called Love?"), which he must have played on at least a thousand times, maybe many more than that.
Hodiak BTW was the star of one of the most bizarre film noirs (though it's in superbly garish color) -- "Desert Fury" (1947), directed by Lewis Allen, screenplay by Robert Rossen, with Lizabeth Scott, Mary Astor, Burt Lancaster, and Wendell Corey (in a superb performance as Hodiak's sidekick who is more or less in love/hate with him). Here's a post about it, with a number of comments; mine is at the end. Wonder if Moms has even seen this one, and if so, whether he agrees with my reading of it.
Last night watched (for the first time in many years) "The Harvey Girls," with Judy Garland, John Hodiak, Ray Bolger, Angela Lansbury, Marjorie Main, Cyd Charisse, Preston Foster, et al., directed by George Sidney; it's one of the Arthur Freed musicals. I plumb forgot how good this one is, and how strange it is, too, in some respects. Best known for its dazzling opening "Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe" sequence (almost a movie in itself), "The Harvey Girls" is so heavily weighted toward storytelling musical numbers (some of them, like Charisse's dance turn to the music of the piano player in Hodiak's local saloon-cum-bordello, again close to movies in themselves) that the whole almost feels like an operetta crossed with a talent show. And dig the subtle camera work -- in scene after scene, the camera virtually dances in counterpoint to the movements of the performers. The strange part has to do with the nature of the romance between Garland and rather reptilian Hodiak -- she a good girl looking to get hitched to the right man, he a tough guy who dreams of becoming nice and civilized (or something like that) -- but at this point I don't feel able to sort it all out, and perhaps that isn't even possible. In any case, there are good-sized swatches of this film where the screen is exceptionally alive with sonic and visual music.
One thing about Green's chordal accompaniment; it wasn't just his time; a la Lester Young (though of course not as boldly) Green fairly often anticipated (and/or "played into") the next change, which had a subtly propulsive effect, pulling the whole band forwards.
I should have said that I've never used "academicize" and "historicize" before either. I have a lot of the Naive Vivaldi operas, plus other Vivaldi in that series, and like/love all of it. In this particular realm, HIP developments are solid gold, especially in terms of rhythm/articulation. Compare, for example, these performances to those from the '60s (or was it the '70s?) by Vittorio Negri or Claudio Scimone, not to mention almost all the HIP Vivaldi from the '80s and later from Britain from Hogwood, Standage, et al. BTW I'm not the only to think that the Naive series and other such efforts have a whole lot to do with Italian musicians re-discovering what it means/could mean to be Italian.
Moms, Mike Weil, et al. -- I know what you're saying about original instruments mattering "hugely" and "making a lot of things of the piece that are beyond 18th century keyboard playing." To that I would say: 1) This approach IMO unduly (and I'm far from the only one who feels this way) privileges (never had a chance to use that word before) one aspect of musical conception/realization (the actual or supposed sonic resources available to a composer and to performers at a particular time) and uses them to potentially steamroller all other musical parameters (another word I've never used before). That evil jerk Richard Taruskin is mostly right in his tirades against this "The Old Testament is the New Testament, now hear the word of the Lord" aspect of HIP and its ideological/historical underpinnings. 2) It's which original instrument(s) coupled with which player(s) that can matter a good deal; I can cite (we all can cite?) any number of dog's breakfast HIP performances. Are those solely the result of less than immaculate scholarship about what things were like musically (in terms of performing resources, habits, etc.) in Cothen in 1720? -- to think so, I think, is to unduly academicize and historicize the actualities of music-making. And, as I think we all have experienced, one man's choice of effective HIP instruments and performing practices is not another's, even among those who worship in the church of HIP. Is this, again, only a matter of the best scholarship? Or are we -- all valid scholarly/historical factors taken into account, however speculative they might be -- finally left with our own ears and our own informed understanding of how music works/can go?
Without doubt, some HIP factors are crucial -- e.g. music ficta in the era of Josquin, Obrecht, etc. -- but even then the results fall on/are processed by our ears. That is, we say that those pieces, when the rules of music ficta have been properly understood and applied (and by good or excellent performers, one hopes) now sound quite different and much better to us. By the same token, perhaps, I think a) that the rules/habits/what you will of music making in say 1720 are much less distant from us than those of 1420, and b) that the musical implications/possibilities of the music of, say, Haydn and Mozart are not definitively delimited/conditioned by our "informed" but still modern ideas of what, for example, 18th Century keyboard playing was like. The proof is in the listening, and if Derzhavina's Haydn, for one, goes "beyond" what one believes would have been possible to someone playing Haydn at a fortepiano in 1788 (but which performer, with what resources of timbre and articulation? -- I've heard many modern HIP keyboard players, and they sure don't sound the same), my ears tell me that I want to go where Derzhavina goes. Would Haydn have wanted his music to go there? We don't know -- unless, again, we insist that we not only know for certain how his music was realized at the time but also that his musical desires/imagination were entirely congruent with those resources. Now if you can point to specific aspects of Derzhavina's Haydn that are other than merely timbral and that violate the nature of Haydn's music, I'll listen. But what I hear is music that is effectively alive.
Camille Cosby, who previously had said that all Cosby's accusers were lying when they said that he had sex with him, now says that she has known for years that her husband was a serial philanderer but that she also knows that all of Cosby's accusers consented to have sex with him: http://nypost.com/2015/07/12/bill-cosbys-wife-says-accusers-consented-to-drugs-and-sex/
Strange line from this story -- Camille, speaking of her husband: "I created him."