Erik Friedlander: Skin
The second release by cellist Erik Friedlanders group Topaz, this disc features original compositions as well as material by Henry Mancini, Charles Mingus, Julius Hemphill, Carlos Santana, and Iranian vocalist Googoosh. In terms of instrumentation and style, the music on Skin bears a distinct resemblance to the ethnic fusion of Matt Darriau's Paradox Trio. Satoshi Takeishi's multi-timbral percussion, which takes the place of a conventional drum set, provides an added layer of exoticism, as do several guest appearances by cimbalom master Alexander Fedoriouk.
Friedlander at times deploys his cello as though it were a second horn, joining Andy Laster's alto sax for the seductive harmonies of Mancini's "Susan." Elsewhere the cellist takes on a bass-like role, complementing the unpredictable twists and turns of bassist Stomu Takeishi (Satoshi's brother), as on "Fekunk." The Atlas Cello Quartet joins Friedlander on a couple of tracks, most notably Hemphill's "Reflections," which the leader transforms into a haunting piece of chamber music. And Santana's "Golden Dawn" makes for a gorgeous all-pizzicato finale, with Friedlander unaccompanied.