Oscar Pettiford was not the first jazz bassist to take up the cello, but he played a crucial role in this super-expressive instrument finding a permanent home in jazz, even if the number of exponents remains absurdly small. Now Erik Friedlander, a truly extraordinary improvising cellist, plays tribute to his precursor with a program of Pettiford’s distinctive compositions; pieces that, while lying in the mainstream of 1950s jazz, were often laced with an evocation of more shadowy moods.
They also readily accommodate more open interpretations, a fact fully exploited by Friedlander’s sensational band of saxophonist Michael Blake, bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Michael Sarin. Friedlander spends as much time playing pizzicato as he does with a bow, achieving a zinging buoyancy and an improbable amount of sustain that others cannily avoid swamping with sonic density. Then when he picks up the bow an almost overwhelming beauty of tone and timbral luxuriance erupts from the speakers. Stand-out compositions include Pettiford’s masterpiece Bohemia After Dark and Tricotism, with its rather Thelonious Monk-like quirkiness.