The seeds for Topaz were sown in 1996 when Erik Friedlander was scoring the dances for his wife, Lynn Shapiro's New York show, which he later performed with Andy Laster and Stomu Takeishi. There was enough empathy between them to inspire Friedlander to write some new tunes. But there was something missing: they needed more rhythmic complexity. Takeishi suggested that they ask his percussionist brother Satoshi to sit in. He did, and the pieces fell into place.
This is the Topaz quartet's fourth CD. The music focuses on African rhythms, but Freidlander goes beyond this to gather motifs of the pan-Arab/African region. And while the beat may be pumped, Friedlander does not forsake atmosphere, in which he saturates his compositions. In doing so, he makes this album catch the light.
Friedlander is a cellist who gets the most out of his instrument. His bowing is deep and draws all the pith and passion, driving emotion right into the soul of each composition. "A Dangerous Game is as fine a testimony as any. The vibrancy and the shadings he invests in his playing as he navigates the range of the cello are strong creative forces. And what begins as warm and coaxing, in marked melodic sonority, soon turns into an animated conversation among the voices of the band where form is scuttled.
Percussion and cello offer an enticing look into "Chanting. Takeishi sets up the rhythm and Friedlander plays with singular warmth, letting the melody wash across and soothe. Laster adds the final lure with a more pronounced, incendiary path to offer contrast. Shifting meters mark "Howling Circle, which has plenty of free movement; Freidlander changes path and scope with high frequency. For the listener, there is no gainsaying which way his muse will lead, but the Takeishi brothers have that well ingrained in their anticipation. An angular trajectory from Laster is the final tantaliser on this intensely satisfying tune.
Track Listing: Howling Circle; Anhinga; Prowl; Chanting; 7th Sister; Rain Bearers; A Dangerous Game; A
Closer Walk With Thee; Najime.
Personnel: Erik Friedlander: cello; Andy Laster: alto saxophone, clarinet; Stomu Takeishi: electric bass;
Satoshi Takeishi: percussion.
I grew up listening to my father's Jazz records and listening to radio. My dad was a musician for many years as a vocalist, bassist and drummer. His two uncles played in the Symphony of Reggio Calabria back in Italy
I grew up listening to my father's Jazz records and listening to radio. My dad was a musician for many years as a vocalist, bassist and drummer. His two uncles played in the Symphony of Reggio Calabria back in Italy. So music and jazz specifically have been a part of me since I was born. I love and perform in all styles of music from around the world. Improvisation in jazz is what drew me in, and still does as well as other genres that feature improvisation. A group of great musicians expressing themselves as one is the hallmark of great jazz and in fact all great music.