AMN Reviews: Erik Friedlander – Bonebridge (Skipstone)

Cellist Erik Friedlander has been on a typically contemporary Jewish-American journey, warmly embracing both heritages but expressing it with such a unique voice. Solo works including “The Watchman” and his interpretation of John Zorn´s “Book of Angels” delved in Jewish memory and mysticism, while he reminisced about traversing the country in an Airstream with Mom and Dad (Lee Freidlander, famed jazz photo portraitist) as a kid on “Block Ice & Propane”. And then of course there´s everything else in between, to the left and to the right and underneath, including his own groups like Topaz and work with Myra Melford, Laurie Anderson and Dave Douglas, to name a few.

In 1971, the trailer stopped at a bluegrass festival in Galax, Viriginia. The family parked and hooked up for the weekend and eleven-year-old Friedlander wandered the site soaking up the atmosphere, where the song of the lap-steel guitar in particular made a deep impression, sounding to him so like his own instrument. It sure sunk in because forty years later, he convenes a stellar quartet sliding lap-steel guitarist Doug Wamble out of Memphis smoothly next to constant New York City companions Mike Sarin and Trevor Dunn on drums and bass.

The needle should hover over “Bonebridge” and be timed to hit the vinyl the moment you lower your tired body, beer in hand, into an easy chair on the porch after a hot summer day´s work. Your boots should be kicked off just as the first guitar notes sail forth on “Low Country Cupola”, one of the most relaxing pieces of music you´ll ever hear.

The quartet essay the best imaginable kind of American cosmopolitanism, an amiable hot jazz, a saucy tango, Western swing with a little East European zetz, lively big city bluegrass. “Caribou Narrows” could be the musical version of the great American wilderness novel, so rich in character and narrative. Friedlander plucks as much as he bows and he and Wamble play beautifully off each other. To say that Dunn and Sarin are impeccable is to damn with faint praise.

Cozyin´ up, toe-tappin´ avant-garde music.

Stephen Fruitman