Northern Lights

Erik Friedlander

Erik Friedlander
Illuminations – A Suite For Solo Cello
USA SKIPSTONE RECORDS SSR20 CD (2015)

This album, released on Friedlander’s own imprint, contains pieces of music titled variously; ‘Prelud’, ‘Madrigal’, ‘Chant’, ‘Cham’, ‘Tarantella’, ‘Fantasia’, ‘Pavan’. Each track title has its style appended to it. It’s like a mini music lesson? A Pavan is an English 16th and 17th Century court dance, popular as a wedding march, for instance. Although “Cham” has stumped me – perhaps it’s a reference to the masked dance associated with some sects of Buddhism? Answers on a postcard…

Bold, baroque and maximalist. It runs the gamut, alright. Although its all very “musical” – Friedlander has mastery of extended technique I’m sure, but he doesn’t demonstrate very much on these recordings. There’s even a smudge of fingerstyle folk melody here and there. Friedlander is NYC-based and in fact describes himself as a “…veteran of NYC’s Downtown scene…”. Indeed, his resumé includes work with John Zorn, Laurie Anderson, Dave Douglas and Courtney Love. That’s an impressive set of credentials.

Friedlander’s website has this to say about Illuminations; it is “…a magical solo CD that weaves inspirations from ancient book making with ritual dance movements and Renaissance vocal forms…” There is no information other than production credits on the sleeve, so I’m struggling with the reference to ancient book-making, but this in no way hinders my enjoyment of the music.

The third track, ‘Siddur’, is full of suspense. Keeps the unity and sense of purpose of each type of piece, showcasing technique for sure, but without the saccharinity or old-fashioned references, particularly ‘The Virgin and The Unicorn’; track 9. Not a step wrong. Strong material; bold and beautiful, which should easily find its way into other solo cellists’ repertoire if there’s any justice in this world. You may have come across his work on the soundtrack of Nothing On Earth; a TV documentary about photographer Murray Fredericks’ exploration of the ice caps in Greenland – Friedlander is in trio mode with Satoshi Takeishi on percussion and Shoko Nagai on accordion and piano – and the material here is a lot more jazz-inflected than on Illuminations. Interesting abstract coloured-pencil drawing on the sleeve by Vanessa No Heart, who appears to be a book jacket designer by trade.

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