Whether delivered by vocalist or instrumentalist, Eckemoff’s melodies are strong throughout, so much so you might find yourself hearing echoes of them once the recording’s over. …Think of Better Than Gold and Silver as a new addition to religion-inspired jazz works that include Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Ellington’s Sacred Concerts. …It also would be wrong to interpret her decision to release a religion-themed album as an attempt to convert listeners; Better Than Gold and Silver is instead a 142-minute expression of deep personal belief that she’s long wanted to share.
Better Than Gold And Silver
Extremely attractive project by the Russian-born pianist: elegant jazz compositions of almost chamber-musical character, which are oriented towards the praising verses and yet go beyond the words. The CD with vocals is by far the more interesting one, because with the warm tenor of Tomäs Cruz and the charming mezzo-soprano of Kim Mayo gold and silver really flow out of the speakers.
The ensemble’s sound, literally shaped by role models such as Eberhard Weber, Arild Andersen and Tomasz Stanko, which owes much to the sound aesthetics of ECM, is brilliant thanks to the sound engineers James Farber and Owen Mulholland, but a slight feeling of satiety is still present by the middle of the second CD at the latest.
Even worldly listeners should sit up and take notice.
Setting biblical psalms to music… requires the ability not only to match and mold the cadences of ancient poetry, but also the ability to connect to the depth of prayer. Eckemoff does this but even more remarkable are the instrumental versions of the psalms found on a companion disc. These extended meditations are the purest expression of devotion to art as well as to god.
The extraordinary, phenomenal New York pianist Yelena Eckemoff prepares her every album comprehensively, publishing at the same time essays on music included on the album, as well as a talented painter while designing the cover of the publishing house. On each album, the artist surrounds herself with the greatest celebrities of world jazz, whose list with each subsequent album is enlarged by new names.
The result is far removed from all “jazz mass” clichés. ..Even worldly listeners should listen attentively.
Pianist Yelena Eckemoff has made a personal transition to faith but, in these recordings of Biblical psalms, has done so in a quiet fashion and her musical “choir” keeps the vision low-key and beautiful. ..The mood is almost uniformly consistent even while the lines share a good number of Eckemoff’s past directions: “Psalm 110” has hints of Latin rhythms; “Psalm 119” a touch of jazz tinged with modern classical; and a feel for gospel throughout. The most extended tracks are the gorgeously slow takes of the album’s closer, “Psalm 147”, the rhythm, as it develops, suggesting Bach. Eckemoff has said that she composed what she heard inside the psalms and every tune here reflects the passion and inner light of the composer.
Yelena Eckemoff – like many artists enthralled by Biblical scripture – find themselves attracted to the Psalms – lyrical songs in praise of and addressed to the God of the Universe. The Psalms – together with The Song of Solomon – is one of two poetic works that have been included in the library of […]
Each release has its own charm and expression, but always bears the personal signature of the composer/pianist. For Better Than Gold And Silver she has come up with something very special. All-Star-Team succeeds in presenting an extremely expressive music on the highest level, which absolutely does justice to the Christian content of the psalms. And this has been accomplished absolutely with a beautiful and strongly harmonic lining, that often sounds truly like “Joy To The World”, music that spreads the Christian messages full of hope. Nevertheless, this is not church music in this sense, nothing sacred, but high-quality jazz using the psalms chosen by Eckemoff.
This is not ‘gospel jazz’ but more like jazz lieder, with the compositions and arrangements matched to the words or connotation of the Psalm. The sound is rich in melody and harmony with ornamental timbres of instrumental solos. Sometimes the rhythmic phrasing catches the ear, other times, the beauty captures the heart. It has ECM-like mellow and attractive tonal quality and allows concentration on the music and piece discernment.
The words are sung over calm, occasionally reminiscent of the special sound of ECM, modern jazzy, in the slow pace compositions, the piano gives the melodies, the very well selected band (Joey Baron, Ralph Alessi, Ben Monder …) underlies discreet rhythm and improvised prudently.