Erik Friedlander.

Erik Friedlander.

Erik Friedlander's Bonebridge

Oct. 7 (two shows) at Firehouse 12, 45 Crown St., New Haven, (203) 785-0468,

You've probably heard the music of Erik Friedlander before. The cellist and composer has played with people like downtown improvisers John Zorn and Marc Ribot, with rock and indie acts like Hole and the Mountain Goats, and he's worked on soundtracks and jingles. Snippets of his 2007 record Block Ice and Propane can often be heard as interstitial music on NPR, that may be where he's gotten the greatest unnamed exposure. Friedlander, who is the son of legendary photographer Lee Friedlander, ranges wide, with some of his projects involving traditional music, folk, electronica, free improvisation, classical settings or ambient elements. The cellist, who spoke to the Advocate from New York City last week, is bringing his Bonebridge quartet to New Haven's Firehouse 12. It's the group's first show outside of New York, says Friedlander.

Friedlander often records and tours solo. He says the experience of lugging the cello around strange cities, doing solo gigs in Europe where he might not speak the language "can be pretty existential." Friedlander is looking forward to taking the bass-drums-cello-and-guitar outfit on the road. "It's so much more fun to go with a band," he says.

The cello doesn't often come to mind when one thinks of jazz. But Bonebridge is definitely in the jazz mode. Friedlander is steeped in the tradition, which was fundamental to his musical development. "I remember in my early years shedding hours on bebop tunes and transcribing Bird solos," recalls Friedlander, but then he says he'd hear a sax player warm up on a riff and it would automatically sound more naturally jazzy. That presents a challenge to the cellist, but it also opens up possibilities.

"It's my belief that the minute you pick up the cello to play jazz, you're doing something modern and you have to understand that and deal with that," he says. "The horizons are still wide open for cello. There's still a lot that can be done and excavated."

Friedlander is doing his part excavating. The music on Bonebridge (his most recent album) by turns can bring to mind gypsy jazz, or South American parlor music, or even rock. As he conceived of the material, the cellist said he realized he wanted to employ slide guitar, the timbre and tonal agility of which shares something with the cello. The result is an interesting pairing, with the voices of the strings — bass, cello and guitar — sometimes hiding behind one another, blending in unexpected layers. The slide guitar swoops and dips. "The slide is what changes the whole vibe of the music," he says.

Here he plucks more often than bows. "Playing the instrument pizzicato — when you pluck the cello — it has a coolness, a sitting back that I think is more appropriate to jazz," he says.

Friedlander has worked in so many different directions, yet all of his moves seem to make coherent sense. "I try to responsibly follow my nose," he says. Creative communication is the unifying thread. "I prize expression," says Friedlander. He hopes to work more on scoring films, something he's well suited for because of his photography-soaked upbringing.

The cello's versatility and authority allow Friedlander to venture where he wishes.

"There's something kind of powerful about a person sitting down and playing the cello in front of an audience by themselves," he says.

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