Cellist Erik Friedlander continues to explore new vistas of expression in the progressive modern jazz idiom. In alto saxophonist Andy Laster he has a partner with whom to contrast stylistically, while electric bass guitarist Stomu Takeishi and percussionist brother Satoshi create a rhythmic foundation that lives and breathes on its own. The Atlas Cello Quartet is also featured on most of this program. There are five "standards" of the 11 compositions that Friedlander interprets. Henry Mancini's "Susan" is serene and beautiful, with slight Afro-Cuban spice and melody similar to "Invitation." The title track "Skin I" is written by Julius Hemphill with Laster assimilating the writer's signature outcry over kinetic, almost industrial percussion and a 4/4 Afro-groove. "Sahel Va Danya" is a creative raga; "Eclipse" the Charles Mingus moody bell ringer, features Laster again wailing; and a solo cello version of "Golden Dawn" takes the Carlos Santana piece into very different sonic areas from the original. The rest are Friedlander's originals. Balkan measures of 7/4 and 4/4 collapse into no time. Slight snippets of cello, bass, and percussion lead to harder, then deliberate swing with harmonic bass overtones on "Split Screen," Friedlander's most involved writing. There's the urban landscape funk of "Fekunk," and the 6/8 Afro-groove "Life In-Line." The total string package is most prevalent on the pensive "Reflections" and more 20th century, contemporary-natured on "White Mountain." The ensemble is at its darkest during "Doomwatcher," replete with free emotional exchanges. Because Friedlander explores many avenues of improvisation and composition, he can't be pegged; his work doesn't fit into a definable bag. You could call it great modern music, and that would be enough. The sounds are challenging, eminently accessible, and definitely compelling, marking more progress in this marvelous musician's burgeoning career. Highly recommended, and a step beyond his previous CD, Topaz.
Michael G. Nastos (Allmusic)