“One of today’s most ingenious and forward-thinking musical practitioners.” —Billboard
Block Ice & Propane
, a collection of cinematic cello compositions by jazz/new music phenom Erik Friedlander commissioned by the Walker Art Center, will be presented at 8 pm Saturday, December 5, in the William and Nadine McGuire Theater. Paired with family and “road cycle” images created by his father, celebrated photographer Lee Friedlander; films by Bill Morrison; and engaging short tales about the kind of travels familiar to so many of us, these new compositions are inspired by years of family road trips with all the trimmings: campers, tourist traps, picnic tables, truck stops, lonely highways, and stark panoramas. Taking inspiration from American roots music, Friedlander executes extraordinary finger-picking technique and reverberant tunings, creating a fresh form of American cello music that is lyrical, plainspoken, and emotional.
New York’s Friedlander (John Zorn, Laurie Anderson) is a composer and improviser, a classical and jazz musician. He has recorded eight CDs as a leader, always working to stake out new ground for the cello in both his compositional choices and his dynamic improvising style. Whether performing in solo or ensemble settings, Friedlander blends his vision of what the cello can be pushed to do, while maintaining a firm grasp on traditions, both improvising and classical.
Friedlander was born in New York City in 1960 and grew up in suburban Rockland County, as the son of the noted artist Lee Friedlander. Along with photographers Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander is recognized as one of the best street photographers of the 1960s whose work can be found in museums around the world. Lee Friedlander is also known by musicians and jazz aficionados for the cover photos he took for Atlantic Records. His passion for R&B and jazz greatly influenced Erik Friedlander, whose earliest memories are of a household filled with the sounds of his father’s subjects, including Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, McCoy Tyner, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane.
Erik Friedlander started playing guitar at age 6 and added cello two years later. He began formal lessons at age 12 and continued his musical studies at Columbia University in 1978. Upon graduation, he spent the next decade refining his cello technique through long hours of practice, supporting himself by playing in various orchestras and Broadway shows, recording commercial music for jingles and movies, and doing session work with artists like Laurie Anderson, Courtney Love’s Hole, and Dar Williams. He also started his first small groups and made his first recordings. Friedlander came into his own in the 1990s as an integral part of NYC’s downtown jazz scene, receiving notices in publications like the Boston Globe and The Wire, as well as Billboard, which wrote, “Friedlander [is] one of today’s most ingenious and forward-thinking musical practitioners.”
Tickets to Erik Friedlander’s Block Ice & Propane are: $22 ($18 Walker members); and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600. The Balcony Bar will be open at 7:30 pm and after the performance.