Cellist Erik Friedlander is a composer, an improviser, and a veteran of NYC's downtown scene. His 14 CDs as a leader recently include, Block Ice & Propane, his solo cello reinterpretation of American roots music; The Broken Arm Trio, a trio tribute to jazz bassist Oscar Pettiford; and 50, a collection of fifty miniatures for improvising quintet. His compositions and his improvising style attempt to blend the traditions of classical and popular music styles with an always evolving vision of what a cellist can be pushed to accomplish. 2011 highlights include a 10-day European solo tour, an exciting April Masada Marathon at Lincoln Center, and the release his fifteenth CD, "Bonebridge" in June.
Friedlander started studying music at an early age, beginning at age 5 with folk guitar and then, at age 8, cello lessons. He grew up in a house filled with music as his father, an avid music lover, made countless mix tapes. Erik's desire to actively participate in the swirl of music styles he grew accustom to hearing led him to find new ways to play the cello. His compositions and his improvising style are driven by an understanding of classical and popular styles and an evolving vision of what a cellist can be pushed to accomplish.
Erik was born in New York City in 1960 and grew up in suburban Rockland County, son of the noted artist Lee Friedlander. Lee is also known by musicians and jazz aficionados for the cover photos he took for Atlantic Records. His passion for r&b and jazz greatly influenced Erik, whose earliest memories are of a household filled with the sounds of his father's subjects--Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane.
Erik started playing guitar at age 6 and added cello two years later. He began formal lessons at age 12. Erik continued his musical studies at Columbia University in 1978. Upon graduation, he spent the next decade refining his cello technique through long hours of practice, supporting himself by playing in various orchestras and Broadway shows, recording commercial music for jingles and movies, and doing session work with artists like Laurie Anderson, Courtney Love's Hole, and Dar Williams. He also started his first small groups and made his first recordings. Erik came into his own in the 1990s as he became an integral part of NYC's downtown jazz scene receiving notices in publications like the Boston Globe, The Wire, and Billboard which wrote, "Friedlander [is] one of today's most ingenious and forward-thinking musical practitioners."
He has always worked to stake out new ground for the cello in both his compositional choices and his dynamic improvising style. His music blends his vision of what the cello can be pushed to do, while maintaining a firm grasp on traditions, both improvising and classical.