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The Big Takeover Issue #94
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Erik Friedlander - She Sees (Skipstone)

26 May 2023

Is it possible that cellist Erik Friedlander has never made a bad record? Not to these ears. (A former cellist’s ears, by the way, so admittedly there may be some bias here.) She Sees is as adventurous and exciting as any album the iconoclastic musician and composer has made. That’s due in part to his collaborators – guitarist Ava Mendoza, veteran Friedlander bassist Stomu Takeishi, drummer Diego Espinosa, all of whom have been with him long enough to both trust their leader’s instincts and know when to push him. But it’s also down to Friedlander’s disinterest in putting any limits on what his instrument can do. In the case of She Sees, that includes rocking out – while still retaining the cellist’s jazz and avant-garde leanings, this is as rock & roll a record as he’s ever done. Songs like “Summit” and “Heatwave” find Friedlander and Mendoza swirling around each other over some aggressive rhythms, like Television translated into punk jazz. “Sliding” adds a noir feel, like the soundtrack to a fifties private detective flick starring a young rockabilly cat, while “Baskets, Biscuits, Rain” keeps a bit of bop in the mix. Off to the left, “Rush, Rush Slowly” indulges in some psychedelic klezmer, and “Tremor, Blink” adds extra grace to the obligatory ballad. “Moneycake: Corrupting” ends the disk with classically-influence avant-jazz rock weirdness, as if Friedlander wanted to combine everything he’d done on the LP into one definitive statement. His imagination unbound, his bandmates communing on the same wavelength, and his playing impeccable, Friedlander adds another masterpiece to his CV with She Sees.