Erik Friedlander can do things with a cello that should have a reasonable listener fearing for her life." Jascha Hoffman, PITCHFORK MEDIA
Erik Friedlander's haunting new CD Fifty is a collection of 50 miniature pieces little worlds some wild and free, some carefully constructed like line drawings, others lush watercolor landscapes. The piece was written during a particularly difficult time, when Erik's wife Lynn was suffering from an unexplained and worsening leg pain that eventually turned out to be a breast cancer recurrence. Friedlander found refuge from the difficult atmosphere by immersing himself in composing for the five instruments (violin, cello, piano, bass, drums)making playful use of style and orchestration, he varied the groupings, the length of the pieces (some as short as seven seconds), and the mood.
The piece was originally conceived as a commission for San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum, which celebrated its June, 2008 opening with numerous new projects, including Aleph-Bet: a music installation of pieces inspired by the Hebrew alphabet. Friedlander completed Fifty in March of 2008. In April, Lynn's leg fractured in two, plunging the couple into an even more difficult period of hospitalization, surgery, and rehabilitation. Despite the charged atmosphere, there was a new clarity: The mysterious pain was now diagnosed, treatment was in full swing and Lynn's surgically repaired femur was slowly on the mend. Friedlander recorded the completed work in May and had the final version mixed and mastered and sent to San Francisco in time for the June opening of the museum.
Friedlander and his wife were spending many hours together in doctors' offices and waiting rooms and they discussed the piece as it was coming together. Lynn, it turned out, found the pacing of the 50 separate tracks too predictable. Flumoxed, Friedlander decided to rethink the original work for his SkipStone release. Taking his cue from his wife's comments, he re-ordered the pieces and then organized them into seven larger tracks. By eliminating the unnecessary time between pieces he was able to create more momentum, as well as more surprises.
The heart of the Fifty group is Friedlander's longtime collaborators and friends, drummer Mike Sarin and bassist Trevor Dunn. The three have been working together for years: Mike and Erik worked back in the 90's together in Dave Douglas' String Band; Friedlander and Dunn have participated in numerous Zorn undertakings over the years. Sylvie Courvoisier, the inventive, Swiss-born pianist and composer, brought Erik in for her Abaton Trio release (ECM)with violinist, Mark Feldman, and the two have been improvising together often since her arrival in New York City. Erik and violinist Jennifer Choi first worked together performing and recording John Zorn's chamber music and have continued to play both improvised and written music together in concerts and on recordings.
It is impossible for Friedlander to separate the piece from the stressful time during which it was created, Composing became a fantastic escape for me during those months when we didn't know what was going on with Lynn's leg. I worked to write one miniature a day but often I'd get two or three done. It was exciting once I got in the groove. When you go through something like we did, it's important to try and carry on with your other lifethe life that was there before the doctors and the hospitals impinged. When it all came together in the studio on that one long day at Kampo Studios, I was thrilled.
Lynn is doing quite well now, two years since her leg fractured. She maintains a busy schedule writing for a major woman's magazine and working on a memoir. Her femur has healed..and she likes Fifty quite a bit now!
Fifty Miniatures for Improvising Quintet will be available at the following locations: CD: Amazon.com, CDBaby.com, GetEriksMusic.com MP3: iTunes, eMusic, Amazon.com, Napster, Lala
Cellist Erik Friedlander is a composer and an improviser, a first-call studio player and a jazzbo. A veteran of NYC's downtown scene, his twelve CDs as a leader recently include Block Ice & Propane, his solo cello re-interpretation of American roots music; The Broken Arm Trio, a trio tribute to jazz bassist Oscar Pettiford; and Volac, a romantic collection of virtuoso solo cello pieces by John Zorn. Erik has performed on hundreds of recordings and soundtracks, including work with Laurie Anderson, The Mountain Goats, Ennio Morricone, and Courtney Love.
Friedlander started studying music at an early age, beginning at age five with folk guitar and then, at age 8, cello lessons. He grew up in a house filled with music as his father, an avid music lover, made countless mix tapes. Erik's desire to actively participate in the swirl of music styles he grew accustomed to hearing led him to find new ways to play the cello. His compositions and his improvising style attempt to blend the traditions of classical and popular music styles with an always evolving vision of what a cellist can be pushed to accomplish.