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This happened 10 days ago, but it’s worth a look back: cellist Erik Friedlander brought his “Broken Arm Trio” to An Die Musik in Baltimore. This trio—Friedlander on his fancy carbon-fiber cello, Trevor Dunn on upright bass, and Michael Sarin on drums—was, as Friedlander explained during the set, conceived as a sort of tribute to famed jazz bassist Oscar Pettiford, who broke his arm and was unable to play bass afterwards. Pettiford took up cello and played the instrument like a bass, inspiring Friedlander’s almost entirely pizzicato playing with this trio.
Friedlander has recorded in the past for Cryptogramophone Records, and his music is a perfect fit for that label’s genre-bending tendencies, although this trio is more clearly rooted in jazz than anything else I’ve heard from him. Friedlander’s jaunty plucking makes the music here upbeat and fun, though the rare moments when he bows his instrument (as in the sublime “Pearls”) stand out as particularly gorgeous, in no small part due to the contrast in sounds.
There was one hint of Friedlander’s history of collaboration with John Zorn, a piece that sounded exactly like one of Zorn’s more chaotic Masada compositions. “Jim Zipper” (I think that’s what it was) was a nice show of versatility from a group of musicians who individually have played with groups as diverse as Mr. Bungle and Alanis Morissette. Still, it was the exception to the rule: Friedlander’s vision with this trio is a narrow one, but when the execution is this good that’s not really anything to complain about.