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Soulful elegy to wife

"Claws and Wings" by Erik Friedlander is a musical offering to which listeners will return repeatedly. He began musical studies when he was five and his photographer father introduced him to many styles during his childhood. As a result he has become known as one of the most innovative living cello players, noted for his performances in roots music and jazz.

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Friedlander, a well-known cellist and composer, lost his wife of 22 years in November, 2011 to breast cancer. She was Lynn Shapiro, a choreographer and writer who often collaborated with Friedlander.

In the throes of grief a few days later he fell off his bicycle and tore the ligament in his thumb. For a cellist, this meant enforced idleness for months. He had to cancel all concerts and he could not practice. He sank deeper into misery over his losses.

By August 2012 Friedlander had recovered and he knew he needed to return to music. He called collaborators Sylvie Courvoisier and Ikue Mori and engineer Scott Solter to join him on New York's East Side to record a new work. Two days later "Claws and Wings" was ready.

The cd is essentially an audial record of Friedlander's journey from loss to renewed artistic vision. It is difficult, in fact, to listen to the portions in which he is obviously mourning for Shapiro. The rage, the anger, the pain and the loss are all there in full voice, the "Claws" of his title which are tearing apart his soul and destroying his creativity.

However, Shapiro wisely knows all grief passes, and he wishes to also leave a tribute to his wife and her remarkable choreography skills. So the second part of the cd soars, with a grace and a hope which tells listeners he has recovered and is moving on, the "Wings" of his title.

Together, the two parts are a remarkable effort by a man who has written a fitting and powerful elegy to his wife, one which anyone in mourning will understand.

Friedlander went on after that to do a tour in Europe in November 2012, featuring a quartet of cello, bass, drums and slide-guitar focused on the American South. "Bonebridge" was a success and the band recorded a CD in May 2013 which was released in early 2014.

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