Dear Erik Friedlander, Hello and thank you for agreeing to answer our questions.
How was your passion for the cello born? Do you come from a family in which there were musicians or music lovers? Your father, if I’m not mistaken, is an important photographer, even in the music world.
I started with guitar at age 5 and then at age 8 I was offered a cello at the local public school. I’ve been playing since. My father loves music and listens to all kinds of music while he works in the darkroom, mainly from mix tapes he would record using 90 minute cassette tapes. I was exposed to all genres of music played loudly in our living room, and in our pickup truck when we would travel around the USA.
What can you tell us about your training as a musician: where did you study and with whom?
I went to the aspen music festival and discovered to my horror that when compared to players my age, I way behind in terms of my development. I needed to tear down my technical approach and remake myself if i were to be a working musician. i spent much of my early 20s doing just that. I studied with Harvey shapiro, Ron Leonard, Zara Nelsova, Robert Gardner and many others. I lived in New York City and there are many great players and teachers.
What cello do you use? I have seen in your videos that you often also use a carbon cello, in addition to a traditional wooden instrument and why do you alternate them in your concerts ?.
I used the carbon fiber to tour but I grew dissatisfied with the sound. It saved me a lot of money because i would put it into the baggage under the plane, like a suitcase! In time I felt the cello lost its sound. so, now i tour with my regular cello (Vidoudez 1922).
You live in NY: Did “The Big Apple” influence your artistic choices as a musician, not only with his music but with all his forms of art and expression?
There is a community of musicians in NYC that is quite large and talented. It’s this constant source of inspiration to hear what people are doing. It’s a push to creativity.!
In 2018 your album Artemisia was released: what can you tell us about this work and how much did it mean for you? What Artemisia is inspired by. What is its musical character?
The Artemisia project was inspired by a trip to the MoMA here in NYC. A Picasso show in which they had as part of the show 6 absinthe glasses. The glasses were pretty… kind of innocent on first glance, but as I looked more closely, I found a dangerous side. The front of each glass is exposed – torn away to show its insides. It seemed like Picasso was saying this is what happens to you when you drink absinthe. This viewing spurred me into an exploration of absinthe’s mysterious history: beneath a glamorous veneer in 19th century Paris lurked accusations of hallucinatory properties and elusive effects that created an atmosphere of addiction and demise.
Throw a Glass Project: a markedly jazz project for a quartet with important musicians collaboration and, above all, with Uri Caine. Can you tell us about this experience and what kind of music has this ensemble expressed?.
Everyone in this band is exceptional. It’s a pleasure to perform with Uri (Caine) as well as Mark (Elias) and Ches (Smith). Their interpretations of my music are a pleasure to be a part of and inspiring to me.
If I’m not mistaken, the Throw a Glass tour also touched Italy: what is your relationship with the music of our country, what do you love about the Italian musical tradition?
We all love to come to Italy because there are big fans of jazz there and the food is spectacular. We have performed in Padova, Palermo, Piacenza, Ferrara, San Vito Tagliamento, and Firenze in the last couple of years.
You have produced more than twenty CDs: do you want to remind us of the main ones, the most significant ones? Do you think they represent a journey through time that your figure as a musician and cellist has matured?
All my releases are significant to me. Certainly, you can use sales to answer this question and in that case “Block Ice & Propane” is my best selling CD. I like the cd I dedicated to my first wife who had died of breast cancer, “Claws & Wings.” The Broken Arm Trio recording is strong as are Oscalypso and Bonebridge.
I follow my curiosity and my intuition. I let the music talk to me, telling me what to write and who to write it for.
With which other musicians have you collaborated and in which projects? Tell us at least about the most significant ones.
Dave Douglas – Parallel Worlds
Marty Ehrlich – The Dark Woods
John Zortn – Bar Kohkba, The Circle Maker, Volac, among others
Dream Song: in this song, in my opinion, there are influences of a US guitar tradition, even plugged, linked to certain musicians such as Ry Cooder, border music from the south of the USA. Can this be true? What can you tell me about it?.
Indeed that was my inspiration for the recording. I wanted to take the folk music finger picking techniques I had learned as a 5 year old and bring them to the cello. Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to “Paris Texas” was especially influential.
The Romanoffs: tell us about this movie and your choices as a composer for this soundtrack.
I love doing Soundtrack work. I grew up with photographs and music in my life. The meeting of music to picture is part of my psyche. I think I have a good feel for it and would love to do more scoring.
I used the santour, piano, cello and electronics to shape the score for “The Romanoffs.” It was an intimate score for this story of a couple visiting Russia to complete the adoption of a baby.
You composed the soundtrack for the film “Oh Lucy”, presented at Cannes. What were the choices you made in composing the music for this film?
“Oh Lucy” needed a light touch. I used cello, electronics, just to bring out the humor and warmth of the film. It was a difficult film to work on because it is mix of emotions going from humorous to sweet and then disturbing.
Oscalypso: a cd that recalls an extraordinary jazz player: Oscar Pettiford. Do you want to tell us about this musician and why he was so important for you?
Oscalypso is a celebration of the music of bassist Oscar Pettiford who was innovative on the cello too. When I look to history for a role model, it’s Pettiford. He was the first to lead a band from behind the cello. And he wrote original tunes, some of which are now classics. Pettiford had a special feel for the instrument — he even named his son Cello! He’s always been a hero of mine.
What will your next commitments be, what have you written down on the next pages of your agenda?. Are you in the recording studios for a new album?.
I’m putting out a new cd called ” Sentinel” with Ava Mendoza (guitar) and Diego Espinosa, perc. This new trio is “Sentinel” was recorded in late 2019, when I invited guitarist Ava Mendoza and percussionist Diego Espinosa into the studio. The group had never played together, let alone rehearse, so my compositions were picked up and worked out on the spot. I found out Diego was coming to NYC for a performance, so I booked the studio and we recorded on Diego’s days off, It was a tricky recording, but we had fun and a lot of the first day takes made it onto the record. The recording has an almost live feel. It’s like a garage band for 2020.
Erik Friedlander, thank you for your kind availability. To you every best wish for your profession as a musician but also for every other aspect of your life.