Erik Friedlander is a top-notch jazz and improvisational cellist and composer. He's played with Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano and John Zorn, and has an excellent band in Chimera, a chamber-jazz ensemble that straddles/blurs the "lines" between jazz, classical composition and world music. (Highly recommended: "The Watchman," on Zorn's Tzadik label.) This release is the debut of his band Topaz, a somewhat funkier and punchier unit; There's more of an overt "jazz" feel to the proceeding, due to the tart, swirling alto of Andy Taster, which reflects the influence of Eric Dolphy (primarily), with touches of Ornette Coleman and Oliver Lake, and the inclusion of two Dolphy tunes, "Hat and Beard" and "Something Sweet, Something Tender" (both from his Blue Note classic "Out to Lunch") and Miles Davis' "Tout De Suite". The latter is given a sublimely pensive treatment that wouldn't be out of place in the soundtrack of a Hitchcock film.
Dolphy is also an inspiration composition-wise--dig the cubist bebop (with a funk tinge) of "Verdine." Takeishi (heard recently with. Myra Melford and Henry Threadgill) has a guitar-like approach to the electric bass, with definite funk influences. (We're talking classic funk here, folks: Sly & the Family Stone, Graham Central Station, early Earth Wind & Fire.) Friedlander, in his liner notes, points to Oscar Pettiford and Fred Katz as inspirations; he definitely does the jazz cello lineage proud. "Topaz" is a thoughtful, varied and cliche-free listen, sure to reward the adventurous listener.