The avant-jazz collective Topaz was established in 1996. The original line-up consisted of Erik Friedlander on cello, Stomu Takeishi on bass and Andy Laster on alto saxophone. A fixture on New York’s creative music scene, Friedlander has performed with John Zorn’s Masada String Trio, Joe Lovano, Laurie Anderson, Dar Williams, and countless others. Stomu's contrapuntal five-string fretless bass can be heard on recordings with Paul Motian and Henry Threadgill's Make a Move band. Laster has worked with Lyle Lovett, Bobby Previte and The Julius Hemphill Sextet, as well as with his own band Hydra. Friedlander was excited by the Topaz trio but he knew that something was holding them back - his compositions demanded more rhythmic drive - so Erik turned to Stomu's brother, percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. His intelligent, dynamic playing and his eclectic Taiko, frame and steel drum setup added the missing element which Friedlander had been searching for. Topaz has the rare ability to apply their signature sound to a piece of music, even radically transform it, without compromising either the integrity of the tune or their own unique voice.