The cello has gradually gained prominence in jazz, getting its start in the hands of bassists like Oscar Pettiford and Ray Brown. These days the cello can be found in many contexts and its flexibility allows players to function like a bass, a chording instrument (bowed or strummed), an object for producing unusual sounds and a profoundly expressive melodic voice replete with all the nuance and multiplicity of dialect that is the hallmark of jazz.
Vancouver cellist Peggy Lee has been involved in an array of compelling projects in the last few years, notably Wayne Horvitz' Gravitas Quartet. Escondido Dreams features the cellist in a quirky trio with two other Vancouver improvisers, guitarist Tony Wilson and saxophonist Jon Bentley. The music is dreamlike, with the often effects-laden guitar playing a key role in the direction of the ensemble. Lee's distinguished creative voice provides strength and flexibility, with a sound that is firm in the most delicate of textures and driving in the most rambunctious moments. Lee's tune "Waxing Lizards Resume" starts things off with a nostalgic sentimentality. Other cuts revel in a more aggressive touch, with Bentley's tunes "Frenetic Warrior" and "Mor Freen" as standouts.
Cellist Hank Roberts was ubiquitous in the New York creative music scene in the '80s, working with Bill Frisell's quartet, Tim Berne's Miniature and the Arcado String Trio, among many other projects. After Roberts' move out of the city, a lengthy lapse occurred in the cellist's recorded output. Green is his first release as a leader in many years and features drummer Jim Black and guitarist Marc Ducret. "Azul," "Prayer" and a handful of other tracks feature Roberts' vocalizations, which were such a defining characteristic of Berne's Columbia records, along with his almost guitar-like strumming. "Departing Hunter's Song" highlights these elements, then ultimately gives way to Ducret's distorted guitar, with Roberts reprising elements of "Jersey Devil," from the first Miniature record. "In the 60s" and "Cola People" both give lots of room for Black and Ducret and "Bernie," "The Long Walk" and "Gentle" are gorgeous displays of Roberts' impeccable musicianship.
Since the mid '90s Erik Friedlander has been involved in numerous projects that highlight his incredible musicianship and vast improvisational vocabulary, perhaps most notably John Zorn's Masada String Trio and Friedlander's own band Topaz. Broken Arm Trio is inspired by Friedlander's exploration of the cello inquiries made by the aforementioned Pettiford and also the work of pianist Herbie Nichols. Sonically the link between these two artists and the music of Broken Arm Trio is clear, with the jazz pizzicato cello being a defining element in the texture and the tight arrangements, so characteristic of Nichols' music, the predominant vibe. There are moments that call to mind some of Friedlander's other projects, like the cartoonish "Jim Zipper" or the more subdued "Ink" and "Pearls". The overall aesthetic though is the bouncy swing and concise arrangements of the Nichols-inspired tunes like "Big Shoes," "Tiny's," "Easy" and "Cake". Drummer Mike Sarin's hard swing and bassist Trevor Dunn's phenomenal playing both provide lift and there are plenty of nimble solos by both Dunn and Friedlander.
The Tony Malaby Cello Trio's Warblepeck features cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, a Chicago resident active in rock-influenced groups, minimalist improvisation with Michael Zerang and Pillow and viscerally charged improvisations with Peter Brötzmann and Ken Vandermark. Malaby's cello band has elements of all of these sonic areas and many more, with Lonberg-Holm's electronics and drummer John Hollenbeck's toys and kitchen utensils providing a captivating variety of sonic novelties alongside some incredibly happening grooves and harmonic colors. Malaby is a consummate improviser, with prodigious technique and an expansive approach that covers a wide spectrum of musicality. He offers emphatically fractured statements on both tenor and soprano sax, bolstered by the fluid propulsion of Hollenbeck's timekeeping and the mindfulness and introspection the drummer inspires in more spacious moments. The title track kicks things off in high gear, while Bill Frisell's tune "Waiting Inside" is tender and nostalgic. "Two Shadows," after a pretty-ish teaser opening, revels in distortion-laden rock for the last three- quarters of the tune. This record is mischievous and the band play together with vigor and wit.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Laxing Lizards Resume; Sinister Two; Floating Island; Man and Dog; Escondido Dreams; Tony's Solo; Frenetic warrior; Max's Dream; Monkey Tree/Just Stories; Fornette; Mor Feen; Sweet Misery; Lemon; Killed To Death.
Personnel: Peggy Lee: cello; Tony Wilson: guitar; Jon Bentley: saxophone.
Tracks: Azul; Bernie Suite, Bernie Alap; Bernie Suite, Prayer; Bernie Suite, Bernie; In the 60's; Cola People; Trees; First; Lenape Suite, Lenape Alap; Lenape Suite, Nasfet; Lenape Suite, The Departing Hunter's Song/ War Dance Song /Jersey Devil; Long Walk; Gentle; Pictures.
Personnel: Hank Roberts: cello, vocals, guitar; Marc Ducret: electric and acoustic guitars; Jim Black: drums, electronics.
Broken Arm Trio
Tracks: Spinning Plates; Pearls; Knife Points; Jim Zipper; Pretty Penny; Easy; Cake; Buffalo; Hop Skip; Ink; Big Shoes; In the Spirit; Tiny's.
Personnel: Erik Friedlander: cello; Trevor Dunn: bass; Mike Sarin: drums.
Tracks: Warblepeck; Jackhat 1; Two Shadows; Waiting Inside; Fly On The Wall/Remolino; Anemone; Anemone Vamp; Sky Church; Scribble Boy; Jackhat 2; Chicotaso.
Personnel: Tony Malaby: tenor and soprano saxophones; Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello and electronics; John Hollenbeck: drums, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, melodica and small kitchen appliances.