Cellist Erik Friedlander has reconvened his unique Topaz quartet with Quake the eclectic result. Stomu and Satoshi Takeishi on fretless electric bass and percussion, respectively, join Andy Laster on alto sax to reprise the same core lineup that has produced two previous strong efforts. Quake picks up and continues these explorations into a heady mix of avant-garde jazz and mid Eastern rhythms blended with a modern classical feel.
While cello and alto may seem an unlikely pairing, Friedlander and Laster expose the commonalities of their instruments and their interplay is a session highlight. "Consternation" and "Wire" feature a sax/cello romp where timbres fuse and the listener loses track of instrumental individuality. Just as the group's second offering, Skin, featured "Sahel Va Danya," so too does Quake include "Gol Gham." Both are interpretations of tunes written and originally performed by Iran's premiere international songstress, Googoosh. Quake also contains the added bonus of "Aap Ki" in deference to India's prolific composer and female vocalist Lata Mangeshkan. Both these compositions are given the royal treatment by Satoshi Takeishi's mixture of Japanese frame drums and assorted percussive "pots and pans" that conjure up a regal processional.
Throughout, Friedlander soars, as the exquisite sonority of his instrument along with his exceptional compositional skills unfold. Such is the case with "After Hours", fresh from its recent styling on guitarist Simone Guiducci's Chorale. Here, the piece is more ethereal with bass, sax and cello each taking their turn with the beautiful melody over a tabla-like percussive rhythm. The title piece is a fiery rocker. Friedlander's cello moves quickly through tight rhythms followed by the classically-influenced "Sainted" that highlights a cello/sax duet.
There is also plenty of improv to satisfy the musicians' downtown NYC faithful. "Bedlam" lives up to its billing by building through free playing to grasp at and finally reach a quick rhythm only to have all four players meet and head out together. "Biscuits" dabbles in mayhem and along with "Fig" trifles with electronica. Quake is further indication that Topaz, led by Friedlander's cello and world view, continues to break ground with its particular brand of synchronic global stew.