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Erik Friedlander: Claws and Wings

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“Frail as a Breeze,” the two-part song that opens cellist Erik Friedlander’s lovely tribute to his departed wife, might describe his own physical and psychological state as he struggled with losing her to breast cancer (not being able to play his instrument after injuring his thumb badly in a bike accident didn’t help). But a soulful inner strength resonates through this delicately textured, lyrically assertive work, which teams Friedlander with a pair of familiar collaborators in pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and electronics artist Ikue Mori.

Claws and Wings is both a loving portrait of Lynn Shapiro, a choreographer and poet who sometimes collaborated with her husband, and a moody portrait of memory, with its fleeting images, quick transitions from joy to sorrow and odd connections. Boasting a gorgeous plucked melody that is punctuated by Courvoisier’s gentle stabs and lifted by Mori’s birdlike sounds, “Dancer” captures Shapiro’s beauty and spirit. Anxiety is at the core of “Dreams of Your Leaving,” as expressed through its turbulent electronic washes, roughed-up strings and quick-stepping passages. Things only intensify on the halting, dark-toned “Insomnia.”

Carried by Friedlander’s stately, measured pizzicato and Courvoisier’s chilly high notes, the leader’s “Cheek to Cheek” may exist in a different sphere than the Irving Berlin classic. But with their airy exchanges and Friedlander’s warm, caressing overdubbed bowing, the trio builds to an uplifting romantic statement of its own. Credit goes to engineer Scott Solter for the intimate sound, which not only puts you in the room with the musicians, but also seems to put you inside their consciousness.

Originally Published