Erik Friedlander
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Erik Friedlander


Band Jazz Americana


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The best kept secret in music


" review"

The formula is simple: put a piece of Ducasse's text in front of the cellist in the studio, along with a few notes, and let him compose music to match it on the spot. It panned out, more or less, not because Maldoror was conceived as a series of songs, but because Erik Friedlander can do things with a cello that should have a reasonable listener fearing for her life. Rostropovich one second and Rottweiler the next, Friedlander is a credible threat, working over the poet's perverse logic with power tools.-Jascha Hoffman


"Last Plane to Jakarta review by John Darnielle (aka The Mountain Goats)"

It's high-minded as it sounds, yes, but there's nothing wrong with being high-minded when you've actually got the chops.-John Darnielle aka The Mountain Goats


"KCRW radio"

One man and his electric cello on an outdoor stage, in the middle of sonic mayhem...stopped traffic with his single, solitary bow.-Celia Hirschman

- KCRW (Los Angeles)

"AllMusic review"

Those familiar with Friedlander as a player will no doubt recognize his deep, earthly tone on his instrument... His approach is avant-garde to be sure, but far from atonal... For all its intensity, it is nearly shockingly accessible, even with its far-flung and dramatic sense of dynamics. This is an album created to be listened to as one work, the individual selections all contribute to a haunting, hunted whole...this is a brilliantly conceived and executed recording, alluringly musical, and decadently humorous in places. As Friedlander's latest chapter, it is also his finest.-Thom Jurek

- ALLMUSIC.COM (Internet)

"" album of stark beauty and haunting poignancy...Maldoror is, quite simply, an important recording of solo improvised pieces, regardless of the instrument; but all the more compelling because it shows a side to the cello that has not been seen before. - JAZZREVIEW.COM (Internet)


- Block Ice & Propane (2007, Brassland)
- Maldoror (2004, Brassland)

Various tracks on compilations including The Wire's Wiretapper. A discography as a group leader and sideman would cover several pages. 100+ records.


Feeling a bit camera shy


The first thing to know about Erik Friedlander is that he is a unique cellist whose work blurs genre borders. Is he a composer or improviser? Is this classical music or jazz? The LA Times put it best when they wrote, "Friedlander's performance clearly positions him as the first potential star performer on his instrument."

Erik's dad was the noted art photographer Lee Friedlander, known best by musicians and jazz aficionados for the cover photos he took for Atlantic Records in the 60s. His passion for r&b and jazz greatly influenced Erik, whose earliest memories are of a household filled with the sounds of his father's subjects--Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane. Erik's been playing the cello since age 8, and we assure you that if you have a concept of what that instrument can do, he will reshape it.

He has toured Europe many times, released recordings on labels like ECM and Tzadik, and played with some of the biggest names in contemporary music, people like John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Laurie Anderson, and Joe Lovano. He's also accompanied pop acts ranging from Alanis Morissette to Courtney Love.

Erik came into his own in the 1990s as he became an integral part of NYC's downtown jazz scene. He played with artists like saxophonist John Zorn, tenor player Joe Lovano, and trumpeter Dave Douglas; he toured and recorded with two of his own groups, Chimera and the still-extant Topaz. Erik has played on records released on labels like Tzadik and Avant, receiving notices in publications like the Boston Globe, The Wire, and Billboard which wrote, "Friedlander [is] one of today's most ingenious and forward- thinking musical practitioners."

That's the name of Erik's forthcoming sophomore solo album, coming in early 2007 via Brassland.

Here is what The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle had to say about the album: "There's a breathtaking lyricism at work in these new tunes, but it's infused with an almost breezy touch: like swirling dust in beams of light, the melodies dazzle and hypnotize and float along on their own currents. Emotional but never sentimental, profound but without pretension -- these songs wordlessly communicate more easily and openly than a dozen singer-songwriters furiously scribbling in notebooks."

And here is a description of the project in Erik's own words: "As the ideas for Block Ice & Propane began to take shape, I realized that I was writing a plain-spoken, American sort of music. Memories of cross-country camping trips my family took every summer started filtering back to me...

"Our camper was a thin shelled box sitting on top of a 1966 Chevrolet pickup truck. An economy model with a propane gas stove, lights, a sink and a table, no shower or fridge. We took lukewarm sponge baths with water from the sink, and we had an ice box. The ice box worked best with block ice: a big rectangular slab of ice you could buy at most campground stores and gas stations. One summer my sister and I began to notice new RV's on the road and in campgrounds, like the sleek, silver Airstreams. They had showers and refrigerators and were incomprehensibly luxurious to us. The era of the ice box was nearing an end, but not for our family. We'd make morning raids on motel ice machines if we were low, filling plastic bags with inferior cubed ice to tide us over until we could find a big block at an Esso station or a supermarket.

"My connection to the music I was writing, my experience with America, was the many trips we took and these memories--the propane stove my mother was always afraid would leak catastrophically, the slightly off smell from the ice box, the hours in the camper my sister and I spent reading or counting big rigs from the top window of the camper (5 points for International and Mack, but 50 for an Autocar), my father using a pressure cooker to prepare tongue for lunch and then laughing as my sister and I gaped at the big tongue sitting next to the salad on the picnic table. The cities, national parks, campgrounds, parades, ranger talks, outhouses, restaurants, wild animals, and strange characters--the vivid memories, are all suffused with the anonymous haze of 1000's of hours of highway travel. Listening now to many of these pieces places me back in the camper again, where time seemed to slow, while outside small white signs furiously counted off the tenths of a mile."