Yelena Eckemoff, the prolific and enthralling (Downbeat) pianist and composer, has earned plaudits for her recent CDs , Everblue, Lions, A Touch of Radiance, Glass Song and more. She has made high-level original music with sidemen on the order of Peter Erskine, Arild Andersen, Jon Christensen, George Mraz, and Mark Turner. With her new release Leaving Everything Behind, Yelena deepens her multifaceted body of work by drawing on older original material, a few pieces dating as far back as the 1980s. To emphasize my concept behind this album, I needed to go back to my roots, says the pianist. I wanted to draw on music I composed when I knew very little if anything at all about the modern jazz field.
These compositions, in various ways, recall for Eckemoff deeply personal events and contemplations. Yet in reinventing her own works so thoroughly and imaginatively, Eckemoff looks back to look forward, approaching her older material from the heights of her acquired skills as a jazz pianist and band leader. Inhabiting that rarefied area between modern classical chamber music and progressive jazz, Eckemoff once again enlists legendary drummer Billy Hart, whose expressive capacities and timbral choices give the music an unstinting freshness. Completing the lineup is sought-after bassist Ben Street (Danilo Pérez, David Virelles, Billy Hart Quartet) and seasoned violinist and improviser Mark Feldman (John Abercrombie, Sylvie Courvoisier, Uri Caine).
Eckemoff confronts these memories and others in a series of poems that accompany each of the tracks on Leaving Everything Behind (a practice she began on Glass Song from 2012). The cover art and all interior drawings are also Eckemoff s. In fact the front cover artwork dates back to the time when she composed the music. I am a professional musician, and painting and poetry for me has always been just a hobby. But I believe that including my own poetry and paintings into the CD package gives people an opportunity to connect with my music on a deeper, more personal level. Also, I think it s important in the age of streaming to offer people a comprehensive physical object, a fuller experience of art.
There is a strong through-composed element in Eckemoff s music, yet her melding of complex written material with a flowing, elastic sense of rhythm is what gives her efforts, Leaving Everything Behind included, an improvisational and even playful feeling. Of the eleven pieces, Mushroom Rain, Leaving Everything Behind and Hope Lives Eternal were composed when Eckemoff was in her early 20s. Ocean of Pines, an intricate piece with waltz, 4/4 and rubato sections and a haunting, elusive harmonic character, was composed in 2005, while six remaining pieces stem from a fruitful period in 2008.
The magnificent texture of the quartet, the transparent beauty of these four unique instrumental voices, is immediately apparent on Prologue, which leads to the darker, more rhythmically emphatic Rising From Within. Other highlights include the contrapuntal dancing of Eckemoff and Feldman on Spots of Light, the Billy Hart-driven groove of Love Train (not to be confused with the O Jays hit), the lilting quasi-shuffle feel and poignant lyricism of Tears of Tenderness and the stately 3/4 pulse and soaring Feldman solo that enlivens A Date in Paradise.
Press Release by David Adler.