Jazz CD Reviews
Erik Friedlander, Mike Sarin, Trevor Dunn – Broken Arm Trio – Skipstone Records
Published on January 6, 2009
(Erik Friedlander – cello; Trevor Dunn – bass; Mike Sarin – drums)
When Oscar Pettiford, the defining jazz bassist of his time, broke his arm, he briefly took up the cello until he fully healed, an instrument demanding less physicality than the double-bass. Erik Friedlander, one of a handful of modern jazz cello masters, here composes and plays modern jazz with a distinct nod to Pettiford’s plucky experiment.
The instrumentation on this disc, cello, double-bass, drums, is certainly unusual for a jazz trio. On first hearing, one wonders why double-bass replaces the expected piano. But after a few careful listens, the genius of this particular group begins to emerge. Friedlander’s cello, typically plucked (except for a glorious arco excursion on “Big Shoes”), almost functions as an acoustic guitar as the leader consistently assumes the main solo voice. And what a voice it is! Given the limited precedent and literature for such a venture, Friedlander handles himself as if this is the most natural way for a cello to be played, casually pulling off fleet solo runs and slyly swinging melodic statements.
One of the things that makes this music work is the originality of conception and sound from Dunn’s bass and Sarin’s drums, which is certainly not surprising given each instrumentalist’s pedigree: Dunn as a regular in various Mike Patten and downtown jazz contexts and Sarin’s percussive contributions to such brave ensembles as various Ben Allison groups and the Michael Moore/Lindsey Horner/Sarin collective, Jewels and Binoculars. What could have been an interesting but somewhat static and in the end boring outing constantly surprises, assaying glorious, if highly odd, musical horizons. Highly recommended!
In the Spirit
– Jan P. Dennis