Acclaimed Cellist Continues to Celebrate his 50th Birthday With Strong, Eclectic Series of Single, Digital and Album Releases
Alchemy is an ancient process of protochemistry and witchcraft which attempted to turn base metals to gold. Alchemy, Erik Friedlander's latest digital release, reverses the process, grabbing the cello roughly and breaking it down to its most basic elements-the scratching rough sound of a cross-cut saw, or the wispy scattering of pitchless pizzicato notes, and its singing, melodic tone. In this, his 50th year, Friedlander presents us with a bird's eye look at his cello landscape: Each track has the cello as the central focus, whether starkly alone, or in cello choirslayered using studio magic.
Traveling has long been a source of inspiration for Friedlander. His 2007 CD, Block Ice & Propane, was triggered by memories of summer camping trips he took as a kid with his family, and now as a touring musician, the road continues to be constant factor in his life. The first track on Alchemy, Glow," opens with the sound of the Cremona, Italy station master announcing the track number of an inbound train, Stazione Cremona! Stazione Cremona!" The voice was recorded by Friedlander on a European solo tour in 2008 and it serves as the jump-off point for a bittersweet piece that evokes the solitude of the solo traveler. Just before the piece ends you hear the train arrive to take Erik on to the next city.
Wag was improvised live in the studio using a poem by John Berryman as the launching point. Both engineer Scott Solter and Friedlander read the Berryman poem, Dreamsong #14, just before pushing the record" button. The two improvised: Solter, using sound manipulation, and Friedlander, playing as he normally does. The poem ends:
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.
Both arch and in pain, the performance has the listener wondering which will win out: brassy resilience, or heart-on-your-sleeve vulnerability.
Scraping roughly, plucking like a guitar, or bowing arching improvisations, Friedlander infuses this new CD with an adventurous spirit. Alchemy, the second release of Friedlander's 50th, and most productive year yet, is a collection of cello-centric gems: an alchemy of sound and texture that celebrates the character of this 300 year old instrument, as well as the skills of the player, now in only his 50th year.
Cellist Erik Friedlander is a composer and an improviser in his own right, as well as a first-call studio player. During the last 25 years he has worked with a diverse array of improvisational, jazz and performance artists such as John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Marty Ehrlich, and Laurie Anderson; his career is also marked by relevance outside the close-knit NY improvising scene with contributions to hundreds of recordings including CDs by The Mountain Goats, Courtney Love, Maxwell, and Loudon Wainwright III.
Friedlander's 12 CDs as a leader most recently include Block Ice & Propane, his solo cello reinterpretation 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.
Friedlander began his fiftieth year with a 12-day tour of Europe with his Broken Arm Trio. He then traveled to Spain for concerts with the Masada String Trio. In June, Friedlander performed John Zorn's Volac at Canada's RE:Flux festival, and performed five concerts of his solo show, Block Ice & Propane, at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, in June. In July he will join Zorn at the Montreal Jazz Festival for a Masada Festival. Later in the summer Erik will perform Block Ice at the Kilkenny Arts Festival in Ireland.
It's been a busy year in the studio for Friedlander as well. Earlier in the year he recorded a new Masada String Trio CD and he just completed the recording of a new CD for his own SkipStone Records labela quartet featuring Doug Wamble on slide guitar with Trevor Dunn, and Mike Sarin. The new band, called Bone Bridge, will release their new CD later in the year.
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