Yelena after a piano concert in 2004.
Yelena Eckemoff was born and raised in Moscow, Russia. Her parents noticed that she had great musical potential when she started to play piano by ear at the age of four. Yelena's mother, Olga, a professional pianist, became her first piano teacher. At the age of seven Yelena was accepted into an elite Gnessins 10-year School for musically gifted children where, in addition to common school subjects, she received extensive training in piano, music theory, music literature, solfeggio, harmony, analysis of musical forms, conducting, composing, and other musical subjects. She was fortunate to study piano with Anna Pavlovna Kantor, who also trained one of today's most celebrated pianists, Evgeny Kissin. Later Yelena studied with Galina Nikolaevna Egiazarova at the Piano School of the Moscow State Conservatory. Upon graduation with Master's Degree in piano performance and pedagogy, she worked as a piano teacher in one of Moscow Music Schools, gave solo concerts, attended courses at the Moscow Jazz Studio, played in an experimental jazz-rock band, and continued to compose music for different instruments and voice.
"Pianist and composer Yelena Eckemoff got a late start as a full-fledged jazz recording artist but she's making up for lost time. Eckemoff entered the artistic world as a young Moscow Conservatory trained classical pianist in the Soviet Union, but she chose to put her work on hold for a spell while raising her children. Eventually, she returned to the piano with renewed creativity energy, but only after leaving her native land... Her relocation to the United States gave her a new personal and artistic lease on life.
Eckemoff has been living stateside with her family for over two decades now, and she's recorded more than a dozen albums in various styles and contexts during that time, but it took a while for her to develop an outward identity as a jazz pianist. “Cold Sun” (L & H Production, 2009), which was her first recorded meeting with drumming icon Peter Erskine and her first proper trio album, proved to be the major turning point in her jazz career. It was names one of 15 best jazz CD releases of 2010 by Warren Allen (AAJ.)
From that point on, Eckemoff churned out compelling and focused jazz albums at an astounding pace; she recorded and released four more piano trio records in less than four years"... engaging such notable jazz musicians as Mads Vinding, Morten Lund, Mats Eilertsen, Marilyn Mazur, Darek Olezskiewicz, Peter Erskine, and Arild Andersen. “Forget-me-not” (L & H, 2012) was peaking #9 and was among best 30 on JMC charts for over 10 weeks. “Glass Song” (L & H, 2013) was named one of the best jazz releases of 2013 on several critics’ lists.
"...Themes of nature, sounds of isolation, stark settings, and blurred lines between compositional and improvisational elements are visible on all of Eckemoff's trio dates, but no two records sound exactly the same.
Eckemoff’s classical background is audible in the intricacy and proportion and refinement of each song’s design, and in the measured caution of her improvisations. But she is more romantic impressionist than academic. Her forms, for all their order and precision, are heartfelt. Her sonic metaphors are often apt, like the pretty cycling phrases of high treble melody that stand for “Melting Ice,” and the splashes of light that represent “Cloud Break.”
A band leader, producer and co-founder of L & H Production record label, Yelena also gives piano lessons and serves as a church musician and choir director. Her hobbies include oil-on-canvas painting, photography, and gardening. She lives with her family and pets on their pine tree farm in a quiet corner of North Carolina. Yelena believes in hard work, God's guidance, humanism, and eternal love.
Yelena 5 years old.
From Yelena's Journal:
As long as I can remember, music has always been a way to express my feelings, thoughts, emotions, life experiences, and love for people and nature. I play and compose because I have an urge to pour out my soul, and the whole process makes me happy and relieved.
In my original musical style I come from the background of classical composition concepts. But my early studies of jazz, rock, and world music helped me to enrich the classical approach with the methods of improvisation and various rhythmical and melodic structures. I constantly strive to learn, to be open-minded, and to further develop my skills to achieve the best I can in my musical journey. But most of all I hope that my music reflects my love for life - all God's creation under the Sun and beyond, and my yearning for peace on Earth.
Mostly I compose my music the old-fashioned way, at the piano, with pencil and notepaper, although some of it I improvise while recording. Many of my compositions are based on the improvisations which I instantly scribble down as I hear them in my head.
Ever since my school years, I was working and playing with soloists, chamber ensembles and bands gaining knowledge and experience in broad range of styles and practical applications of my creative ideas. I have also spent several years digging into electronic music and found sampling and MIDI technology very useful for a contemporary composer. For a while I was thrilled with the flexibilities of the virtual orchestra, however, in a while I drifted back to playing and recording with live musicians.
In 2006-2008 I played gigs and recorded with cellist Gayle Masarie, drummer Michael Bolejack, flutist Deborah Egekvist, bassists Nathan Scott, Gray Hackelman, Pat Lawrence, and oboist/saxophonist Evan Thee. (CDs "The Call," 2006, and "Advocate of Love," 2008.)
In 2009 I started a new chapter in my musical journey when I began to work on the album, “Cold Sun” (released on April 12, 2010) with two legendary jazzmen, Mads Vinding (double-bass) and Peter Erskine (drums.)
In 2010 I have recorded “Grass Catching the Wind” (released in July of 2010) with Mads Vinding (Morten Lund on drums) as well as another album with Peter Erskine (Darek Oles, a.k.a. Darek Oleszkiewicz, on double bass.) This album, “Flying Steps,” was released in December of 2010.
In August of 2011 I have enjoyed my first over-seas recording session in Copenhagen, Denmark, with wonderful ECM musicians - Mats Eilertsen on double bass and Marilyn Mazur on drums and percussion. This CD, "Forget-me-not," was released in February 2012.
In March 2012 I had a pleasure to bring together for the first time two living legends of the jazz world – Peter Erskine and Arild Andersen. The new piano trio album "Glass Song" was recorded in Los Angeles on March 16 & 17 and was released in February of 2013.
In March of 2013 I had a priviledge to record another CD with Arild Andersen, but now with Billy Hart on drums. With this new trio I had my debut performance in New York on March 26, 2013 at the famed Birdland Jazz Club. The result of this New York recording session, a double CD "Lions," is waiting to be released along with three more albums that I recorded in 2012 and 2013 in Denmark and Finland.
Please stay tuned for the most recent updates.