Erik Friedlander – Oscalypso (2015)

Share this:

We’ve seen this before, an album paying tribute to Oscar Pettiford by one of the premier cellists of today. It turns out, Erik Friedlander’s Oscalypso reveals that more tribute paying is justified. Especially since Broken Arm Trio (2008) celebrated Pettiford’s insertion of the cello into jazz, and not Pettiford’s music itself. In a first for Friedlander, he records an album of all covers; all composed by the late bass (and cello) jazz giant. Released last month on his Skipstone Records imprint, Friedlander even reconvenes bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Michael Sarin from that Broken Arm Trio, adding Michael Blake on saxophones.

Some fifty-five years after Pettiford’s passing, the idea of a combo being led by a cello still seems a radical concept, and maybe because there are so few aside from Pettiford who attempted it. Friedlander’s main accomplishment on his straightforward renditions of these old tunes lies in making the cello so easily capable of being that lead instrument. On the Pettiford classic “Bohemia After Dark” and again on lesser known tunes like “Cable Car”, he harmonizes on these bop performances with Blake so naturally, he virtually assumes the role of a second horn. “Oscalypso” as the title hints is a little like Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomas” in character but looser, and Friedlander swings away with passion uncommon for the instrument. His heavy classical training comes to the fore on “Tamalpais Love Song” with a highly elegant arco cello following a pretty, pizzicato intro.

Other highlights include the downbeat mood set by Friedlander for the ballad “Two Little Pearls” as Blake’s soprano sax harmonizes along, and “Pendulum At Falcon’s Lair,” a delightful blues-based swinger that sports some lively drums from Sarin.

Erik Friedlander has always gone beyond just playing a mean cello, he has championed it through his records that puts the instrument in diverse settings to prove that it belongs there. On Oscalypso, he makes the case the same way his hero Oscar Pettiford did. Once again, it’s a strong case.



S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
Share this:
Close