Nov 28 2015
It’s refreshing to hear cellist Erik Friedlander on a straight-ahead jazz project for a change. Whereas the last few years have seem him get print on this site for projects that hit sub-genres like chamber jazz, jazz-folk, avant-garde and indie-jazz-pop, Friedlander’s newest, Oscalypso, is a tribute album to Oscar Pettiford, a bassist who was an early trailblazer incorporating cello into the jazz scene.
Bringing together a quartet comprised of saxophonist Michael Blake, bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Michael Sarin, the courses Friedlander charts for nine Pettiford originals fall into two general categories. There are tracks like “Cello Again” and “Cable Car” that swing, swing away, where the rhythm section stays light on its feet and the soloists even lighter. This category of album track is typically upbeat and cheerful, and the inclination of the musicians is to dance, though the surging intensity of album-opener “”Bohemia After Dark” provides a partial eclipse of this sunniness with a shift in emotional tone.
And then there are tracks like “Two Little Pearls” and “Tamalpais Love Song,” where the quartet’s heart is set on a ballad, even when that heart’s beat works a tempo not conducive to candlelight romance. Of particular interest is the way Blake’s saxophone and Friedlander’s cello take turns slowly drawling out the melody… sometimes in staggered expressions and sometimes in unison… and the resulting shift between these two states creates some compelling tension to keep the ear occupied.
For as much as Friedlander goes about showing what cello is and can become, this reminder of where it came from is essential. It’s also a solid recording.
Your album personnel: Erik Friedlander (cello), Michael Blake (saxophones), Trevor Dunn (bass) and Michael Sarin (drums).
Released on Friedlander’s SkipStone Records.
Explore more of this album and other Friedlander recordings on his music on his Bandcamp page.
Jazz from NYC.