Saturday, July 31, 2010

Erik Friedlander’s Birthday Single: Aching Sarah

It’s been real compact discs, but it’s pretty much over. Jazz and experimental cellist Erik Friedlander has already moved on. His last project debuted on vinyl in Europe, with an American digital release to come in the future. Now he has released a digital download only single Aching Sarah, which is for sale at on-line retailers and is currently available for free on his website in celebration of the musician’s fiftieth birthday.

Virtuously versatile, Friedlander largely made his name in “downtown” sessions with the likes of John Zorn and Dave Douglas. Yet his Broken Arm Trio is a swinging combo inspired by Oscar Pettiford, the bassist who became jazz’s preeminent cellist after suffering that fateful broken limb. Friedlander has also lent his cello to recordings by popular artists like Idol alumni Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken, as well as the difficult to classify Yoko Ono. It was while playing on her latest album that the cellist met trumpeter Michael Leonhart, whom Friedlander prominently features on Aching.

According to Friedlander, Aching is part of his “Cutting-Room Floor” series of compositions written for characters cut from films, existing only in the cellist’s music. As one would expect, it has a distinctly cinematic character, evoking the dreamlike atmosphere of the ethereal Sarah. Perfectly suited Leonhart’s warm tone, the vibe of Aching is not unlike that of Tomasz Stanko’s sessions with and inspired by his mentor Krzysztof Komeda, the great Polish film composer.

Even though it is Friedlander’s session, Leonhart’s trumpet is far more prominent than the leader’s cello. Yet, Friedlander’s sensitive accompaniment and eerie electronic programming give the track a strange but effective texture. It is in fact a rather notable example of how electronics can enhance a session, without overwhelming the musicians.

Aching is a sophisticated, insinuating musical statement that should appeal to a surprisingly broad spectrum of jazz listeners. The prize is right too, while Friedlander celebrates the big five-o. An intriguing piece to review, Aching probably portends more single reviews to come as the music business slowly and reluctantly adapts to new market realities. Regardless, it is a distinctive track, well worth downloading.

(Photo: Roland Rossbacher)