Erik Friedlander: Cello Ahead
The higher degree of synthesis of today's jazz doesn't rest only on a higher integration between old and new, but also on the increasing openness towards other musical traditions. Interest for African, Latin American or Eastern music can be found throughout jazz's history but it reached an unprecedented peak in the '90s. The stereotypical 'melting pot', New York, served as the perfect incubator for a trend that at time bordered 'fashion'. One particular strain of the phenomenon - side by side with the explosion of the 'balkanized jazz' of bands like Pachora - was that of the Jewish-tinged jazz in which Erik Friedlander also participated.
EF: New York always had a very active and thoughtful Jewish community. The reason I got involved in this Jewish musical revival is because of John Zorn.
Jazz is only one paradigm of improvisation, but there are all these other cultures that have their own improvised music. Many of us find great inspiration in this. I'm looking for truthful ways to express my personality through music and I'm finding new starting points in other traditions. There is a traditional and a popular use of strings in the music of the Middle East and India, especially the way they use violin sections. I'm totally turned on by what they do: the violins become aggressively rhythmic, like another percussion instrument-it's amazing!
There truly is a community of musicians here interested in this diversity: if I hire three musicians from the New York area and I bring in Iranian pieces, or Sephardic music, or my own music there is no problem for them.
In practice, though, everyone's music in this scene is very different. You can't compare Andy Laster's Lessness to my Topaz, to Chris Speed's' to Jim Black's group' to John Zorn's Masada, even though some of these bands are made of the same musicians. They all bring themselves to the music and deliver an exciting performance, but also perfectly understand what the composer is after.
Frank Tafuri (b/w photo) Claudio Casanova (color photo)