Stuart Kremsky for Mr. Stu’s Record room

Sometimes a trio is not just a trio …

For her latest recording, Nocturnal Animals, pianist and composer Yelena Eckemoff is joined by bassist Arild Andersen and two drummers, Jon Christensen and Thomas Strønen. The set was recorded in Oslo’s Rainbow Studio, the location of many ECM releases, including a number with Andersen and Christensen onboard, and the music does have some of the artful poise of the famed label. This is Andersen’s sixth project with Eckemoff since 2012’s Glass Song, and they’ve established a rich and fruitful rapport. But that’s nothing compared to his relationship with drummer Jon Christensen. Both men played and recorded with saxophonist Jan Garbarek starting in the late Sixties, and they’ve crossed paths many times in the intervening decades. Second drummer Thomas Strønen limits himself to adding subtle percussive textures to the mix. Fourteen new songs are presented, each named for an insect, mammal, or bird that comes out at night. Even with her poems of the same names that are printed in the booklet, I have a lot of trouble sussing out the connection between, for instance, the music of Fox and the creature itself. (Maybe I’ll listen to the track the next time I have a fox in my back yard and see if that helps!) But no matter: Eckemoff’s bright and attractive melodies, committed playing and command of the music’s flow make her private meanings besides the point. Andersen, a potent and commanding soloist, is given plenty of space in Eckemoff’s supple arrangements. Standouts include the quietly blues-like Walkingstick, the enchanting Rattlesnake with powerful solo work by Andersen, the exuberant dance of Lynx, and the hypnotic rhythms of Owl. Nocturnal Animals is an enchanting project, well worth your time and attention.