Much of the 11 originals here have an ECM-ish sound while Eckemoff’s piano work, in its structure, reflects her classical background. McCandless and Andersen keep the flow and held my interest in the music. It’s not foot tapping but it is emotive and pretty.
Yelena Eckemoff’s Desert goes beyond the tired tropes of camels, shifting sands, and that fabled oasis into the fevered imagination of a fictional man’s mind after all is lost. Again using her own prose and artwork, the classically trained Russian jazz pianist and composer brings together a core group of musicians and her densely complicated supernatural stories for an 11-track score.
The cumulative wisdom of the musicians simmers well throughout this enticing conceptual album, serving to translate complex compositions into traveler songs of sheer beauty and apparent facility…Never too smooth, never too aggressive, the album offers the possibility and the pleasure of discovering new places. The classy compositions presented here conjure up the great mystic of the desert. The music feels like finding a precious oasis.
McCandless’s oboe is notably evocative in that regard. Ms. Eckemoff’s own playing leads the way, harmonically and in depth of keyboard tone, as she establishes the album’s feeling of mystery and languor. Eckemoff’s concept is akin to that of many albums released on the ECM label over the years, making it a natural setting for bassist Andersen, often a leader of ECM sessions. Erskine’s percussion array allows him to generate colors beyond his customary mainstream palette.
Original Japanese: 昨年リリースされた「Yelena Eckemoff Quintet / In the Shadow of a Cloud（17年、別頁あり）」がなかなか良かったエレーナ・エケモフ（モスクワ出身）の最新作。と思いきや録音は2015年なので、時系列的には「Yelena Eckemoff Trio / Glass Song（12年録音、別頁あり）」と「In the Shadow of a Cloud（16年録音）」の間ということになる。メンバーのアリルド・アンデルセンとピーター・アースキンは、「Glass Song」にも参加。本作ではそこにポール・マッキャンドレスも加わっているだけあって、Oregonにも通じる演奏が展開されているのだが、現在のOregonと同様に温度感は高い方。1曲目からアースキンの長めのドラムソロが用意されているし、アンデルセンのいかにも北欧的で正確無比なバッキングやベースソロも聴き応えがあって、早くも買ってよかったという気分にさせてくれる。楽曲は何らかの情景（砂漠がテーマとなっているようだ）が浮かんでくるような非4ビートが主体となっているけれど、それがまたマッキャンドレスの音楽性ともよくマッチしていて実にいい塩梅だし、肝心のエケモフの抒情性豊かなピアノも聴き応えがたっぷり。2曲目や5曲目では途中からフリーな展開になっていたり、4曲目には中東色も感じられたりして、これまで聴いてきたエケモフとはまた一味違った印象を受ける。それと曲によってはオーバーダブされているアースキンのパーカッションもいいアクセント。これだけのメンバーが揃っているだけあって、各人のプレイを聴いているだけでも充分楽しめるし、当然ながらバンドとしても調和の取れた演奏をしていて、どの曲をとってもいい感じで楽しませてくれる。ただしトータルで74分はちょっと長い気もするけどね。ゆったり目のテンポの似たような曲調が多いので、3曲ぐらいカットした方がメリハリのついたアルバム構成になってよかったのではと思う。 演奏が想像していた以上に素晴らしいのに加えて、本作は録音の良さも特筆もの。各楽器が非常にリアルに録れていながらもうるささは一切感じさせなくて、私としてはこの音の良さだけでもノックアウトされてしまった。特に1曲目でのアースキン・ソロのドラムの音は鳥肌ものなので（ジャケット内の写真を見ると2014年の渡辺貞夫スーパービッグバンドのコンサートと同様、TAMAの黄色い2タム2フロアのセットを使っている）、これは今年の最優秀録音候補にしておこう。view on web
Desert, inspired by Middle Eastern music, will invoke Debussy in spots and Brubeck and Bill Evans in others. Like Rimsky-Korsakov, Eckemoff absorbed aspects of Mid-East music in her compositions, much as Brubeck did with his Turkish-inflected classic “Blue Rondo a la Turk”- it’s most definitely jazz but Eastern/North African cultural “echoes” are vivid. Eckemoff’s style has the thickness of notes and compositional straightforwardness of Brubeck and the spare lyricism of Evans.
Her albums are usually organized around a theme. This one is unusual in having a musical style directly associated with it: so much of this program combines Arabic music with jazz, giving it a unique sound in her catalog. ..It sounds like the group has taken a journey together—and it’s a pleasure to come along for the ride as a listener.
“Desert” is a beautiful conceptual album that takes us to the heated desert sands, which we traverse in the jazz caravan of great artists. The cortege follows the path set by the unique, one of its kind, artist, and the music heard is illustrated by beautiful essays included in the album booklet. ..In “Desert” we also get to know the less humble nature of Yelena Eckemoff, leading us with her music into regions of more advanced improvisation, rubbing against solutions of proper free jazz.
Every album Eckemoff releases is a good entry point to a body of work that is both increasingly diverse and inimitably personal, and the highly recommended Desert is no exception. But with her longstanding relationships with Andersen and Erskine bolstered by a particularly evocative first encounter with the ever-impressive McCandless, Desert may well be the best – and broadest – of her dozen recordings made since 2010’s Cold Sun.
Deeply penetrating into matter, closely intertwined by the high-class playing of the band, one experiences a drama that moves between the poles of silence and restlessness, endowed with melancholy and delicate romanticism. Once again, Yelena Eckemoff has succeeded in presenting her musical theme excellently creating tension that links elements of classical music and folklore with jazz.
The team creates soft impressions of mystique on pieces like “Mirage” and the caravan-like “Dance” which has Erskine on hand percussion while Eckemoff is delicate on the gentle “Garden of Eden.” McCandless’ clarinet creates a Mid East mood on the lurking “Bedouins” and he takes you to Monument Valley with Eckemoff’s crystal touch on “Dust Storm.” A journey through exotic sands that shift with the wind.
The arrangements are succinct and crisply executed. Drummer Erskine gives a masterclass in elevating the music throughout, in the way that Paul Motian always did, with a distinctively different approach. Eckemoff’s compositions have a characteristic refinement, their accessible complexities woven through by McCandless’ sinewy melodic lines from his oboe, English horn, soprano saxophone and bass clarinet. And a bonus—Eckemoff’s prose and poetry included in the twenty-plus page cover booklet that adds a vocabulary to her musical ideas. She is proving herself as fine a writer as she is a musician on this excellent work of art.
At times dissonant, but overwhelmingly melodic, this is current jazz at the highest level of both sophistication and visceral imagery. The seamless mix of all the musical influences in her life makes Eckemoff’s music simply extraordinary. Highly recommended.
Arabian-imagined motifs weave into the dense, bright, often noisily dramatic pieces. Timbre itself of soprano and alto reeds, deep bass, the orchestral piano, and mid-range drums and cymbals produce various hues of sound….As it may take a while for the ear to accustom to any unusual, inventive group’s sound and style, better appreciation will come with a second hearing.
It is nice to be surprised by sounds – and yet it has become rare even in a versatile music such as jazz. The virtuoso Russian pianist Yelena Eckemoff, who has been living in the USA for many years, succeeds in surprises organically, because she developed her music in an unusual way.
Review: Eckemoff returns with another stellar group excursion, this time to the middle eastern desert. It is interesting to listen to instruments that are not from the region create music that evokes the region anyway. She has a new group of all-stars along for the journey, as well. In addition to establishing a dialog between […]
On her most impressive date yet, Eckemoff corrals these cats into helping her cross the impressionistic desert she has sound painted here. The crew brings a great synchronicity to the proceedings turning in a date not to be missed by fans of anyone on board. A most righteous work throughout where everyone gets to play to their fullest.
Russian pianist Yelena Eckemoff has now reached her quarterly release cycle with the album Desert. Amazing is not only the consistently high quality of her CD’s, but also the prominent contributors. This time Oregon oboist Paul McCandless, Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen and US veteran Peter Erskine are on the drums. Together they play eleven Eckemoff originals, which are characterized by beautiful, sometimes oriental melodies (therefore perhaps also the album title) and by virtuosic fluency.