Lions sounds like Yelena Eckemoff letting go, following her muse with a focused fervor. The music—structured gorgeousness in the embrace of the improvisational elan of Andersen and Hart—is Yelena’s strongest statement to date, a flawless and beguiling work of art.
Effortlessly modern, with nothing to prove beyond total involvement in the moment, Eckemoff presents the listener with a thoroughly modern, yet intimate and highly personal sound-world. All of the compositions on Leaving Everything Behind are Eckemoff’s originals. Several of these date from the 1980s; a time when she was just beginning her exploration into jazz. Interestingly, these pieces seem highly refined, replete with airy, vague harmonies that refer equally to Bill Evans and Claude Debussy.
Leading an impressionistic trio that leans more toward ECM than Windham Hill, this is introspective music for the neo-classical fan that knows how to recognize the real deal.
A well balanced and focused jazz trio can create a superb ambiance. Yelena Eckemoff is using the trio format to capture the essence of seasons. Cold Sun was released last year and it reflected the bleakness of winter with icy, crystalline notes and reserved arrangements. She is exploring spring with and the compositions on Grass Catching the Wind are warmer, brighter.
The music is intelligent without being pedantic, sophisticated without being sterile, creative without being indulgent, and sensitive without being desultory. Tunes bounce, weave, collide and open up as temperatures and musical barometric pressures change.
FORGET-me-NOT is an album without borders, a gallery of animate snapshots that float on the wind. Its fluid transitions hang like a necklace from the neck of a mother who stares through the window of her past and finds a thousand songs to sing. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come for an artist who continues to add feathers to her wings with each new release.
Eckemoff has been establishing her reputation for creative music that is both free and romantic. Slower tempos reinforce the modest and restrained expressions, yet at the same time we discover that this group’s vision is to make transcendent musical statements. The result is je ne sais quoi, with fascinating elements and qualities which are hard to describe. To fully understand and appreciate the nuance of this music, tune into the emotional content of the pieces. See if they don’t become memorable as they resonate from heart to heart across cultures.
This is a disc comprised of ten original compositions with a unifying theme: a floating, dreamy atmosphere filled with cerebral and stimulating tone poems. Eckemoff weaves her different influences into her improvisations with seamless ease. …An exciting composer and improviser, Yelena Eckemoff has produced a thought provoking and engaging record that fuses multiple musical currents into a unique whole.
Yelena Eckemoff writes music which is rich in broader atmospheres than is usual in jazz. She moves easily between composed music with something of a modern, impressionistic classical feel to it, and grooves which are thoroughly jazzy, and there is also that feeling of freshness that comes from different cultures mixing together in the music, just as they do in the musician. …This is music with that quiet depth that comes from a really rich musical hinterland.
This is just top notch jazz played beautifully. … Forget-Me-Not will become an album you will never forget. …This is the kind of jazz I enjoy listening to and one I will recommend to anyone who comes my way.
Sonically pastoral beauty that delights the senses and evokes the listener in an engaged journey beyond can be found throughout this phenomenal release. … Set to a milieu of expressive percussion and arco textures, Eckemoff traverses the listener through a canvas of beautiful harmonic colors with liberated pianism. Mazur underpins with cymbals in a flurried but cohesive accompaniment to Eilertsen focused yet perceptive, soloing. The beauty of the opening cut sets the thematic journey through the many landscapes, creating an atmospheric troposphere that is intoxicating.
Forget-me-Not, is an exploration of the pianist’s imaginative compositional style with spirited group interplay. …Eckemoff’s approach to the traditional piano trio is fresh and appealing.
Pianist and composer Yelena Eckemoff undoubtedly turns heads (and raises many eyebrows) when listeners hear her rare blend of classical chamber music and progressive jazz on her latest CD, Forget-me-not. …Overall, the record is intriguing and intellectually stimulating. At times romantic, often eerie, but always intimate, it’s as though a dreamy mist descends upon you while you’re listening to it.
Yelena Eckemoff’s latest offering Forget-me-Not is a jazz and classically infused exploration of beauty, textures and improvisational genius. …With a vast discography, that includes some of the leading figures in jazz today, Eckemoff has clearly established herself as a top ranking composer. The question is no longer whether she can be considered in the ranks of top composers; it is now how far her musical journey will take her.
Eckemoff’s talents are walking the artistic tightrope of her personal experience in Moscow and that of the form and function of the more traditional western improvisational forms of jazz in the United States… Eckemoff is the type of artist to drive a critic and most major label executives to the nearest ledge as her prolific talents sidestep the more standard categorization with ease.
The ambient soundscapes and eclectic tresses of Forget-Me-Not from pianist Yelena Eckemoff showcases music that stimulates the mind through complex entanglements and ethereally textured chimes reverberating in a broad range of keys and decibels. The improvised parts are proportioned to the structured motifs so the tracks keep their autonomy while maintaining a melodic fluidity.
There is an unmistakable note of nostalgia in the music that is only intensified with each new listen. For me, more overtly personal tracks like these reach deepest. Take, for example, “Mama,” which is a brilliant and sublime confluence of time, space, and technique that seems to constitute the very heart of what Eckemoff is capable of at her best.
Flying Steps is a part of Eckemoff’s evolution, the pianist playing to her strengths with conviction and great ability. To her credit, she looks forward in choosing musical company that can move her along without discarding the equity she has built over the years. Eckemoff has always incorporated the principles of progression in her compositions and, with Flying Steps, she does so with her thematic presentation.
Pianist Eckemoff has plenty of room to allow her instrument to roam in this trio setup, so much so that the ancillary double-bassist and drummer often seem to disappear in these romantic, reflective doodles. …I do plan to get to know this genial record better when there’s nothing pressing.
The scrolling notes of pianist of Yelena Echemoff embroider imagery soundscapes that soothe, excite and entrap the listener in an experience beyond earthly dimensions.
There’s a rare delicacy to this luminous, ECM-ish piano-trio outing that features the remarkably sensitive rhythm duo of bassist Darek Oles and drummer Peter Erskine. … Among the real gems are “Promise,” “A Smile,” the sparse “Isolated” and poignant “Mama,” all underscored by Oles’ graceful, woody tones and Erskine’s painterly approach to the kit. Drum fans will revel in Erskine’s choices throughout this keenly interactive offering.
Pianist Yelena Eckemoff’s classical training in Russia certainly stands out on her “Flying Steps” CD, but so do the improvisational and interplay capabilities of her trio with bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz and drummer Peter Erskine. …Flying Steps” is a democratic, ECM-inspired statement by a true jazz original.
What more need to be said about Yelena Eckemoff? Besides the fact that she is an exceptional pianist/composer who has released numerous recordings that attests to it. In keeping step with her progression, her latest collection, Flying Steps, is merely a catapult boasting all and more that Eckemoff is capable of.
You really have to hand it to Eckemoff. She’s quickly managed to create an enviable body of work that blends post-modern abstraction, classical thought, and jazz language into a seamless whole. There’s a fearlessness in her art that’s not always addressed in discussions of her work. It’s not so easy to just dive into jazz when you’re further down life’s road, it’s certainly a challenge to try to match forces with some of the music’s giants shortly after taking the initial plunge, and it’s quite difficult to create original music that offers intelligent thought and surprise when you’re working under the aforementioned realities. Kudos to her for overcoming those obstacles.
Eckemoff’s piano playing is a big part of the sound. She tends to give more solo space to her guests, but she has plenty of shining minutes as soloist, as well as providing important musical glue holding the arrangements together. She is definitely a jazz pianist now, and it may be just the power of suggestion hearing evidence of her classical training.
Having left the classical world behind for a turn in the new age world, Eckemoff sheds her skin once again and comes in with a classic, ECM worthy date that finds her mixing angular jazz with left leaning impressionism aided by a crew of experienced New Yorkers that know how to deliver this sound and vision. This is the sound of her memories of days gone by, spread over two discs with some improv aces that know how to sound like she feels. Certainly something different and out of the ordinary.