"Erik Friedlander can do things with a cello that should have a reasonable listener fearing for her life."
There aren't that many cellists — much less whack jazz cellists — who get any kind of attention from a site more in tune with Portishead, Lil Wayne, or bands with the "f" word in their names. Then again, Erik Friedlander is no ordinary cellist.
Friedlander's inclination to subvert convention is probably what got the indie crowd at Pitchfork so gosh darned fired up about him. But paired with his virtuosic abilities on an instrument that's not exactly the choice of rock stars and you have fresh, adventurous music that will leave you teetering if it fails to knock you on your ass. For Maldoror from 2003, Friedlander created music extemporaneously, inspired by the early Surrealist work of the 19th century French poet Comte de Lautréamont. 2007's Block Ice And Propane was a merrily twisted form of Americana that Bill Frisell might have attempted, had he played cello instead of guitar.
Last fall came yet again a creative angle for exploiting heretofore unimagined possibilities on cello. The Broken Arm Trio distinguishes itself by format: a trio of drums (Mike Sarin), bass (Trevor Dunn, of Mr. Bungle fame), and Friedlander, of course, on cello. The "Broken Arm" name is derived from jazz bass legend Oscar Pettiford, who pioneered the use of the cello within the jazz form when a broken arm forced him out of commission on bass for a while, but he was able to wield a bow while he recovered.
Friedlander, however, didn't make a record a homage to Pettiford's songs or the bebop music he played when he made his lasting mark on jazz bass and cello in the forties and fifties. Such a project would simply be too confining for Friedlander. The constant in his records is that everything is possible.
Thusly, the record pivots from the dizzying, circular post-bop of "Spinning Plates" to the soft, classical leanings of "Pearls," the compacted insanity of "Jim Zipper" or the lumbering blues of "Ink." Friedlander almost seems intent on making this a whirlwind tour for the listener, as all but two of these dozen songs clock in under five minutes and half of them end by around the three-and-a-half minute mark or sooner.