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Erik Friedlander: Going Uptown

During an interview last fall, cellist Erik Friedlander ran through several pizzicato techniques that figure prominently into his latest album, Broken Arm Trio (SkipStone). Sitting in his apartment in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, Friedlander plucked the cello strings like a bassist, fingerpicked like a guitar player and created a tremolo effect using just one finger. During a casual conversation afterward, Friedlander’s cello rested horizontally on his lap like an oversized guitar.

While pizzicato plays only a minor role in the cello’s centuries-old repertoire, Friedlander believes spotlighting the instrument in this manner makes it accessible and also compelling for jazz listeners. “I really believe it’s an exceptional jazz voice,” he said earlier at a nearby café. “Not [in] the modern jazz that I’ve been part of in the last 15 years, but in the jazz of the past. The minute you pick up the bow,” he added, “I think … the cello becomes [a] different instrument, something that’s taking jazz into some other new, modern territory.”

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