This album represents the most fruitful shift in Eckemoff’s career by joining her with bassist Mads Vinding and drummer Peter Erskine. Her relationship with the latter is particularly striking and achieves a clearly discernible balance of distance and intimacy throughout. Erskine’s profoundly subtle craft—sharing peerage with Jon Christensen especially in the use of cymbals—ever so delicately paints in those gaps that the piano leaves untouched in its abyss. His gestures swirl like snowdrifts, each the afterthought of something internally more dramatic.
This long disc (over 70 minutes) is filled with such amazing moments, as Eckemoff brings her strong classical background and her impeccable technique to bear upon highly creative, and sometimes quite jazzy, compositions. It sounds like a lot of the music is through composed but there is clearly still instinctive improvisation going on all the way through, too. ..There is an amazing moment nearly five minutes into the second track here, After Blizzard, when Eckemoff and Erskine sound like splintering, shattering, skidding and tinkling ice, yet not in a twee, delicate way but in a strong and slightly scary, elemental way. ..This disc feels like the musical equivalent of Jansson’s prose: crisp, clean, concise in expression, full of space, and suggesting even greater depths of wisdom, and subtlety both of emotion and thought, beneath the surface.
Pianist Yelena Eckemoff conjures up many different images of winter in her sparse and delicate trio arrangements. The starkly beautiful photographs on the CD cover give a clear indication of the music within, while the crystal clear production—sound engineer Rich Breen deserves a name check for this—means that each instrument comes across perfectly. Other reviewers have alluded to the ECM-like qualities of this album, and the comparison has merit: the young Polish pianist Marcin Wasilewski is an obvious point of reference, for example. Eckemoff plays with a delicate touch: each note counts, none is wasted. ..Winter might well be the inspiration, but the music on Cold Sun is strangely warm and comforting as well as beautiful.
Pianist/composer Yelena Eckemoff works in that rarified area between modern classical chamber music and progressive jazz. Cold Sun provides an exploration of improvisation within the setup of the jazz piano trio. Built around a winter theme, the album finds the three players exploring a sparse, almost desolate sonic territory. What stands out most in these wide-open spaces is the tremendous chemistry between the musicians. ..The line between the melodies themselves and the improvisation is often hard to distinguish, but they’re both clearly defined. Individual solos are fairly brief, and the result is that the nuances and personality of each musician shines out at almost any given point, lending tremendous nuance and tenderness. Eckemoff has both the ability to let a moment of silence stretch time between her phrases and the appreciation to let her sidemen ornament the quiet in their own way.
The acoustic trio has produced a modern jazz record of outstanding quality although this one may take some time before it sinks in. The melodies are not readily accessible as they are buried just beneath the surface and it takes a bit of work to pull them out. There is an experimental dissonance at work here that is not easily accessible but is well worth the effort in the end. All three musicians work beautifully together intertwining compositional form and improvisation seemingly at will. Eckemoff’s edgy piano textures weave around the outstanding rhythm play of Erskine and Vinding and all three excel in the free form jazz style. ..Eckemoff and company have produced an excellent album with Cold Sun. Fans of eclectic acoustic jazz will eat this one up, I guarantee it.
There’s ECM music lingering beyond the ECM gates. Perhaps the bleakest picture of winter since “Reds”, this Russian composer paints her impressionistic portrait as only one afraid of being sent to Siberia can do. A first rate piece of modern, chamber jazz for the sitting down jazz lover.
The title song, which ends hauntingly, is a good introduction to “After Blizzard,” while the brilliant “Stubborn” puts Vinding’s double-bass to truly creative use. The less edgy “Romance by the Fireplace” is upbeat, even playful, a stark contrast to the ominous, moody “Silence” and the more cautious, sometimes capering dissonance of “Snow Bliss.”
There is an ECM-feel to the pieces, which meld improvisation and composition, and classical and jazz elements intricately and seamlessly. ,, Some pieces (like the lovely and mysterious effervescent title track) float and hang like glistening snowflakes, while others (like “Stubborn”) trudge through snowdrifts with determination to survive. “Romance by the Fireplace” meanwhile, playfully hints at a tango. At times pleasant, at times chilly and bleak, but throughout – an engaging winter journey.