This past Friday, New Music Circle held their third event of the season at The Stage at KDHX with Erik Friedlander’s Black Phebe Trio. The trio performed works from their album “Rings” as well as debut performances of Friedlander’s newest project titled “The Baby Series”. Erik Friedlander is described as being a veteran of the New York experimental downtown scene, and has been playing the cello since the age of eight. The avant-garde jazz musician is signed with SkipStone Records and has worked with many musical greats including Alanis Morissette and Courtney Love. He is also a member of the jazz fusion quartet, Topaz.
Joining him in Black Phebe are Shoko Nagai and Satoshi Takeishi. Shoko Nagai brings an eccentric pop of color to the trio. She wore bright floral pants and matching ribbons neatly tied on her shoes. She switched between her sparkly silver accordion and the piano throughout their performance. Originally from Japan, she immigrated to the United States and studied Jazz at Berklee. She has composed numerous film scores as well as touring globally with her versatile musical skills. Percussionist Satoshi Takeishi was a student at Berklee as well with an interest in Latin Music. He has travelled to the Middle East to study music and was a member of Hans Tammen’s Third Eye Orchestra in Europe. Takeishi performs on a variety of percussion instruments often using them unconventionally to create unique and perfected sounds.
Most notably, each song by the group felt like a winding journey through a wordless narrative—we were struck by the way in which each composition told its own unique story through the transfer of raw emotions between musician, instrument, and audience. The artistry and talent involved in their performance is rivaled by few, each artist seamlessly switched between multiple instruments and playing styles. On the cello, Friedlander balances a mix of bowing, his signature pizzicato, as well as pedals to loop his own organic sounds in the background.
From their album “Rings” the group played the tracks The Seducer, Black Phebe, Small Things, A Single Eye, Risky Business, Tremor, and Fracture. These songs cover a wide range of complexity— true to the album title, the songs from “Rings” contain layers of diverse musical experiences. As Friedlander said himself during the set, “when she’s [Shoko] on the accordion we’re a different group.” It’s true, the songs featuring Shoko’s accordion conveys a modern twist on a Central European old world aesthetic, often employing bouncing rhythms building to a crescendo. Whereas her piano playing adds an element off fluidity and reflection to the songs. On either instrument, Shoko’s intense focus and tangible passion for her craft was a treat for the audience. Our personal favorite from the “Rings” album was Tremor—which features Friedlander’s emotional pizzicato as well as unique, almost bird-like, sounds from percussionist Satoshi.
Friedlander treated the audience to two debut performances of songs created in his newest project “The Baby Series”. The first was titled Sensitive Baby, which the crowd found amusement in. The song held a unique dissonance, each element would sound lovely on its own, yet when brought together a new magic emerges. Satoshi created a variety of percussive sounds including chimes and brush methods. The unique percussion, combined with the gentle piano and Friedlander’s mix of bowing and pizzicato, felt like a building of storm on a warm summer evening with emerging energy rising and settling. Also from “The Baby Series”, the group played Brilliant Baby, which swept the crowd up with its rapid expression of emotion and Satoshi’s astonishing percussive spotlight towards the end of the song.
To close the set, Black Phebe played a song written for the soundtrack of a documentary titled Nothing on Earth, which follows filmmaker Michael Angus on his harrowing journey through Greenland’s expansive terrain. The song, titled Aasiaat, features dizzying cello bowing from Friedlander, a mix of accordion and piano from Shoko, and moments of intense percussion from Satoshi—perfectly highlighting each of their honed talents. The sound grapples with the concept of beautiful vastness, which the film attempts to visually capture. In fact, all their songs feel like a soundtrack for our own internal journeys, expertly compelling listeners to reflect upon emotions and memories while simultaneously looking towards the vastness of the future.
More photos from the event:
All photography featured is © Photography by J Rose 2017