330

Erik Friedlander: Block Ice & Propane

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Erik Friedlander: Block Ice & Propane Erik Friedlander's last solo cello disc, the avant-tinged Maldoror (Brassland, 2003), was a series of in-the-moment improvisations inspired by 19th century French surrealist poetry. Block Ice & Propane is an entirely different beast, stimulated by memories of childhood camping trips across the United States, on which Friedlander's parents took him each summer. It's no less adventurous or spontaneous, but it is considerably more accessible—how Bill Frisell might sound, perhaps, had he chosen the cello rather than the guitar.

Friedlander's impressive and vast technical skill lets him transform the cello into an instrument that's played in many cases like a guitar, where rather than single or double-note pizzicato, he actually finger-picks and strums. The album possesses a folkloric vibe from the very start of "King Rig, where Friedlander tremolos on the high strings while picking spare bass notes before introducing a more propulsive rhythm that reflects the truck of the title.

Even when he brings out his bow, as he does on the dramatic "Airstream Envy, the ambiance remains rootsy. It's an arco tour-de-force as Friedlander moves from rhythmic cross-bowing to perfectly controlled harmonics, but the melodies are always singable. Even the brief "Road Weary, which begins with two outré cries, ultimately fits its title perfectly. Artists often talk about the difficulties in naming pieces, but Friedlander's titles are so appropriate that it's possible to anticipate them while listening to the music—a rare feat.

It's also rare that an engineer/producer gets equal mention, but here it's completely appropriate. Scott Solter's live processing makes what is already an unequivocal link between Friedlander and Frisell even clearer, creating ambient washes behind the cellist on the hauntingly beautiful "Dream Song and the atmospheric "Rusting in Honeysuckle which, alongside "A Thousand Unpieced Suns and "Pressure Cooking, has some of Friedlander's most extreme playing of the set.

Some of the pieces are completely improvised while others appear to have at least some basis in preconception. Melodic pieces like "Yakida and the low-end closer, "Valley of Fire, may be composed, but Friedlander's ever-spontaneous approach suggests they'd sound different every time they were played.

With Friedlander's distinctive take on Americana no less personal than Frisell's, Block Ice & Propane supports his reputation as the most innovative, imaginative and stylistically unbound cellist in improvised music. The logical next step would be to see him collaborate with Frisell and, given these two artists' open-mindedness, it's by no means impossible to think it might happen. One can only hope.


Track Listing: King Rig; Dream Song; Airstream Envy; Road Weary; Night White; Black Ice & Propane; A Thousand Unpieced Suns; Rushmore; Rusting in Honeysuckle; Cold Chicken; Yakime; Pressure Cooking; Valley of Fire.

Personnel: Erik Friedlander: cello, tuning forks; Scott Solter: engineer, live processing.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Skipstone Records | Style: Fringes of Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture CD/LP/Track Review The Angel and the Brute Sing Songs of Rapture
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Coldest Second Yesterday CD/LP/Track Review Coldest Second Yesterday
by John Sharpe
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Follow Your Heart CD/LP/Track Review Follow Your Heart
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 25, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Chicago II CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017
Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read "Penumbra" CD/LP/Track Review Penumbra
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 10, 2017
Read "Impulsive Illuminations" CD/LP/Track Review Impulsive Illuminations
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 28, 2016
Read "On Hollywood Boulevard" CD/LP/Track Review On Hollywood Boulevard
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: December 6, 2016
Read "Hear & Now" CD/LP/Track Review Hear & Now
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 22, 2017
Read "My Blue Soul" CD/LP/Track Review My Blue Soul
by James Nadal
Published: May 10, 2016
Read "Happy All the Time" CD/LP/Track Review Happy All the Time
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 12, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!