Known Johnson

January 6, 2007

Erik Friedlander scores extra points today

Filed under: Music — Tom @ 2:56 am

Years ago, when BET Jazz was actually a jazz channel and not just “J” as it’s called now, I ran across this fascinating live performance featuring a very odd quartet – a bassist, a sax player, a percussionist, and a cellist, of all things. This was unusual music – jazz, but worldly, fiery and dangerous but also dark and sultry. I was hooked instantly. But what was it? As is often the case on BET Jazz, it’s hard to tell exactly what you’re watching unless you tune in at the very beginning of the show. Luckily, at the end, the credits revealed enough for me to decipher that this was cellist-extraordinaire Erik Friedlander and the group, I would find out later, was his band Topaz.

At the time, I didn’t find much about the guy available, so I grabbed what I could – a copy of Topaz happened to be at Zia one day and that’s about all I found for years until Prowl came out in 2006. Unfortunately, the Topaz disc was not the audio equivalent of what I’d watched on BET Jazz – and I wanted whatever that was really bad.

For whatever reason, I never really investigated further – and that’s unusual for me. I’ve enjoyed Prowl and Topaz a lot, but for some reason never checked out Friedlander’s site like I usually do for most artists I get into, nor did I go seeking out every other recording. For whatever reason, these two just happened to be enough for the time being. However, something buzzed in my brain the other day and I happened upon his website for the first time where I noticed something called Skin there – a live CD that was, unfortunately, out of print, but the blurb urged readers to check out the DVD. The proverbial lightbulb went on and I checked out a trailer that was so helpfully linked there and, once it loaded, I knew instantly that I was finally seeing what I’d been seeking for years. As it turns out, BET Jazz had simply been airing an edited-for-time version of Skin and it had been available all along at Erik’s website. What’s better, it’s been available there for $9! I quickly ordered a copy.

Not three days later I received a lovely manila-colored puffy package in the mail, much bigger than I expected bearing Erik Friedlander’s name in the return-mail address. I tore it open and found not only the DVD but also a free shirt and a hand-written card from Erik himself. Now I’m not a big autograph guy, but I am a big customer-service and fan-oriented artist guy, and I think this is awesome – he is easily the world’s leading jazz cellist, a dude who frequently hangs out and records with John Zorn, and has recorded on dozens of popular albums that you probably don’t even realize (a short list: Paula Cole, Maxwell, Joe Jackson, Wynton Marsalis, Alanis Morissette, Ricky Martin, and Clay Aiken – and there are dozens upon dozens of lesser known jazz and avant garde elite that could be named off as well.) Unless you’ve been keeping your ears plugged, you’ve likely heard him somewhere and just didn’t know it. And he took some extra time to do this.

I’m genuinely thrilled when an artist takes a moment out of his day to go the extra mile like that – it speaks volumes about how much the music means to him that he actually packs these things himself and, in doing so, doesn’t just shove them in the envelope and send them off. This is someone for whom the music is not only the notes but the connection to the listener, and this listener made a connection deeper than just the music today.


1 Comment »

  1. […] Vocalist Nora McCarthy has updated her calendar. Joel Harrison also has a busy schedule. Taran’s Playlists & Podcasts features ESP and and jazz from Sweden. Finally, Erik Friedlander scores points with a fan.   [link] […]

    Pingback by Avant Music News » Blog Archive » Newbits: Monday, January 8th, 2007 — January 8, 2007 @ 12:16 pm | Reply

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