included guitar and flute, provided the group's unique sound, and the quintet had no followers. In the last quarter of the last century improvised music threw off many traditional notions, and one of the results was the opening up of the sound palette, offering a place for all sorts of instruments that had been neglected or marginalized in earlier times.
The cello, though still played by only a precious few, began to find its voice in the new music. Amplification helped, and even Albert Ayler, one of the great wailing saxophone voices of the day, sometimes included a cellist in his bands. Abdul Wadud, who came out of the St. Louis new jazz tradition, demonstrated that a cello could be as funky as a bass guitar, and others, such as Tristan Honsinger, Ernst Reijseger, David Eyges, Rufus Cappadocia, and Hank Roberts, developed new ways of utilizing the instrument in solo and ensemble contexts. By the time Erik Friedlander arrived on the scene, the cello was no longer a novelty.
Friedlander began his musical life with the classics, and after graduating from college in 1978 he took on the life of a journeyman musician, playing in orchestras, chamber groups, commercial recording sessions, and Broadway pit bands. He began to work with other members of the New York "downtown" scene, gravitating toward new music and improvisation. By the early 1990s he was appearing regularly with people like John Zorn and Dave Douglas, and suddenly his career bloomed.