Yelena Eckemoff’s hot streak continues. Desert is astounding, partly because of the presence of the multi-instrumentalist Paul McCandless, bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Peter Erskine. RIYL: Oregon, underdogs, John Surman.
Remarkable New York pianist Yelena Eckemoff prepares extensively to publish her respective poetic essays on individual compositions, as well as to design a talented painter’s cover. On each album, the artist surrounds herself with the world’s biggest stars jazz, whose list with each successive album is enhanced by new names. Behind her belt are albums recorded with musicians, among others, like Billy Hart, Tore Brunborg, Ben Street, Chris Potter, Adam Rogers and Drew Gress. On her new album, her premiere compositions are accompanied by the already familiar from previous albums by the pianist Arild Andersen (double bass) and Peter Erskine (drums,) and playing oboe, English horn, saxophone and clarinet is Paul McCandles, well known to jazz enthusiasts of Oregon lineup. Released in May, the album “Desert” brings 11 beautiful stylish tracks, recorded in Hollywood Conway Studios.
It is an album full of ambient Arabic motifs intertwined in strictly jazz acoustic convention. A huge contribution to the final message of the album is played by various instruments (oboe, English horn, soprano sax, bass clarinet) by Paul McCandless. It is him who is full of Far Eastern climates with uneven and contrasting parts adorning each of the compositions. A wide range of instruments allows McCandless to create very diverse, though embedded in the Arabic convention, melodic motifs. The huge possibilities and rich instrumentation of McCandless make the artist seem to dominate the quartet in many pieces.
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 (opening the album: “Bedouins”, “Mirages”).
The double bass player Arild Andersen of ECM label, is perfectly capable of creating an intimate mood (like in “Garden of Eden”), “pouring oil into the fire”, and serving us with thrilling, dynamic lines (well done playing unison in “Oasis”).
For many years collaborating with Yelena Eckemoff, drummer Peter Erskine (another musician of the Weather Report formation, recently heard on the phenomenal album: “How Long Is Now?”, 2016 – Iiro Rantala and Lars Danielsson), is a perfectionist and a real magician of drums and various ” percussive disturbance “, each time being able to enrich the songs with rhythm and various stylish ornaments, with his precise and at the same time stylish game.
“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.
Eckemoff does not slow down the pace, because this year the album will be released in a stellar sextet (Eckemoff / Alessi / Monder / Howes / Gress / Baron), and for 2019 an album of a pianist recorded in duo with Manu Katche is planned. How does she do it?
Niezwykła nowojorska pianistka Yelena Eckemoff swą każdą kolejną przygotowuje kompleksowo, publikując jednocześnie poetyckie eseje dotyczące poszczególnych kompozycji, a także jako utalentowana malarka projektując jej okładkę. Na każdym albumie artystka otacza się największymi znakomitościami światowego jazzu, których lista z każdym kolejnym albumem powiększa się o nowe nazwiska. Mając za sobą płyty nagrane z takimi muzykami jak m.in. Billy Hart, Tore Brunborg, Ben Street, Chris Potter, Adam Rogers czy Drew Gres, na nowej płycie gra swe premierowe kompozycje w towarzystwie znanych już z poprzednich płyt pianistki: Arilda Andersena (kontrabas) i Petera Erskine (perkusja), oraz Paula McCandlessa, doskonale znanego miłośnikom jazzu z formacji Oregon. Wydany w maju 2018 roku album “Desert” przynosi 11 pięknych stylowych utworów, zarejestrowanych w hollywoodzkich Conway Studios.
To album pełen klimatycznych arabskich motywów wplatanych w stricte jazzową akustyczną konwencję. Ogromny wkład w ostateczny przekaz albumu ma grający na rozmaitych instrumentach (obój, rożek angielski, saksofon sopranowy, klarnet basowy) Paul McCandless. To do niego należą pełne dalekowschodnich klimatów niejednolite i kontrastowe partie ozdabiające każdą z kompozycji. Szeroki wachlarz instrumentalny pozwala McCandlessowi na kreowanie bardzo zróżnicowanych, mimo iż osadzonych w arabskiej konwencji, motywów melodycznych. Ogromne możliwości i bogate instrumentarium McCandlessa, sprawiają iż w wielu utworach artysta zdaje się zdecydowanie dominować w kwartecie.
Na “Desert” poznajemy też mniej pokorną naturę Yeleny Eckemoff, przenoszącą nas swą muzyką w rejony bardziej zaawansowanych improwizacji, ocierających się o rozwiązania właściwe free jazzowi (otwierające album: “Bedouins“, “Mirages“).
Doskonale wypada znany z płyt wytwórni ECM, kontrabasista Arild Andersen, potrafiący zarówno w zachwycający sposób wykreować intymny nastrój (np. w “Garden Of Eden“), jak “dolać oliwy do ognia”, serwując nam porywające, pełne dynamiki partie (świetnie wypada grając unisono z obojem w “Oasis“).
Od wielu lat współpracujący z Yeleną Eckemoff, perkusista Peter Erskine (onegdaj muzyk formacji Weather Report, ostatnio słyszany na fenomenalnym albumie: “How Long Is Now?” , 2016 – Iiro Rantalą i Larsem Danielssonem), to perfekcjonista i prawdziwy mag perkusji oraz rozmaitych “przeszkadzajek”, każdorazowo potrafiący swą precyzyjną, a zarazem stylową grą wzbogacić utwory zarówno rytmem jak różnorodnymi stylowymi ornamentami.
“Desert’ to piękny koncepcyjny album przenoszący nas na rozgrzane pustynne piaski, które przemierzamy w jazzowej karawanie znakomitych artystów. Orszak ten podąża drogą wyznaczoną przez artystkę wyjątkową i jedyną w swoim rodzaju, a słyszaną muzykę ilustrują piękne eseje zamieszczone w książeczce dołączonej do płyty.
Yelena Eckemoff nie zwalnia tempa, bowiem jeszcze w tym roku ukaże się płyta zrealizowana w gwiazdorskim sekstecie (Eckemoff / Alessi / Monder / Howes / Gress / Baron), a na rok 2019 planowana jest płyta pianistki nagrana w duecie z Manu Katche. Jak ona to robi?
Every recording of the Russian pianist (but now residing in the USA) Yelena Eckemoff has something special, because of her music, obviously, but also due to all the emotions that she manages to convey involving the listener and the other musicians involved in the project. This time there are the faithful Arild Andersen on double bass and Peter Erskine on drums, with whom she has already recorded in trio. To complete the quartet there is another star of today’s jazz, multi- instrumentalist Paul McCandless on oboe, English horn, soprano sax and bass clarinet. The cover, which obviously represents a typical landscape with the dunes, was painted by the pianist; inside the booklet there are stories inspired by evoked landscapes, a reading that completes the message of a multifaceted artist, at ease not only as a pianist and composer, but also with other means of expression. From the beginning, with Bedouins, you listen to a music in which sidemen give their best, inspired by the ideas of the leader. We know McCandless for his long collaboration with the Oregon, but with this trio he finds an ideal collocation, expressing on his instruments absolutely original ideas, in this perfectly indulged by the others. Condor it is a duo piece, with a pensive atmosphere, almost translating into music the story of the protagonist, the ruler of the skies of the Andes and capable of scrutinizing what happens on the arid land. It is a piece with an enthralling poetics in which the rhythm acts to give the idea of these so special atmospheres. On Oasis returns the complete quartet, with McCandless on oboe, the pianist solo and Andersen’s bass so smooth and fast that it almost sounds like a guitar. On the restless Dust Storm McCandless is on bass clarinet; here it is also worth mention the work of Peter Erskine in one of the most interesting pieces of the album. Eckemoff continues to amaze and thrill us with her music, between jazz and classical, improvisation and composition, made together with musicians who capture the essence of her writing.
Ogni incisione della pianista russa (ma ora residente in USA) Yelena Eckemoff ha qualcosa di speciale, per la sua musica, ovvio, ma anche per tutte le emozioni che questa riesce a trasmettere coinvolgendo l’ascoltatore e gli altri musicisti partecipi del progetto. Questa volta ci sono i fidi Arild Andersen al contrabbasso e Peter Erskine alla batteria, con cui ha già inciso in trio, a completare il quartetto un’altra stella del jazz di oggi, il multistrumentista Paul McCandless all’oboe, al corno inglese, al sax soprano ed al clarinetto basso. La copertina, che ovviamente rappresenta un tipico paesaggio con le dune, è stata dipinta dalla pianista, all’interno del booklet si trovano delle storie ispirate ai paesaggi evocati, una lettura che completa il messaggio di un’artista totale, a suo agio non soltanto come pianista e compositrice, ma anche con altre possibilità di espressione. Fin dall’inizio, con Bedouins si ascolta una musica in cui i sidemam danno il meglio di sé stessi, ispirati dalle idee della leader. Conosciamo McCandless per la lunga collaborazione con gli Oregon, con questo trio trova comunque una collocazione ideale, esprimendo ai suoi strumenti idee assolutamente originali, in questo perfettamente assecondato dagli altri. Condor è un brano in trio, dall’atmosfera pensosa, quasi a tradurre in musica il racconto del protagonista, dominatore dei cieli delle Ande e capace da lassù di scrutare cosa succede sull’arida terra. È un brano dalla poetica coinvolgente in cui la ritmica agisce per dare l’idea di queste atmosfere cosí speciali. Su Oasis ritorna il quartetto al completo, con McCandless all’oboe, l’assolo della pianista ed il contrabbasso di Andersen così fluido e veloce che sembra quasi una chitarra. Sull’inquieto Dust Storm McCandless è al clarinetto basso, qui è anche da rilevare il lavoro di Peter Erskine in uno dei brani più interessanti dell’album. La Eckemoff continua a stupirci ed a emozionarci con la sua musica, fra jazz e classica, improvvisazione e composizione, realizzata insieme a musicisti che colgono l’essenza della sua scrittura.
5.0 out of 5 stars
Title: Pianist/Composer Yelena Eckemoff Continues to Mine New Territory in Her First-Time Collaboration with Oregon’s Paul McCandless
Desert is another in a long string of consistently superb recordings from the persistently prolific Yelena Eckemoff. In these days of decreasing album sales, rarely performing live may mean that this expat Russian pianist/composer’s upward trajectory is relatively slow. Still, what she has achieved without regular gigging is, in fact, quite remarkable, as critical and popular acclaim for her work continues to grow, with more and more people coming to know – and love – her thoroughly compelling music.
Following 2017’s sublime In the Shadow of a Cloud and 2016’s ambitious Blooming Tall Phlox, Eckemoff returns with the stunningly beautiful Desert. Any album that brings Norwegian double bassist Arild Andersen together with American drummer Peter Erskine and reed/woodwind multi-instrumentalist Paul McCandless (a personal favourite, always, from the great band, Oregon) is already starting with some pretty darn fine DNA. Add to that Eckemoff’s wonderful compositions and exceptional piano work, and the result is another superlative album that manages to stir the soul, even as it represents some of the pianist’s most challenging music to date.
As always, Eckemoff’s albums always have a concept and the Middle Eastern-tinged Desert is no different, as she explores vast, often harsh but still, somehow, strikingly appealing landscapes. With McCandless’ far-reaching contributions on everything from soprano saxophone and bass clarinet to oboe, English horn and wood flute, Desert may be Eckemoff’s most texturally expansive album yet, with a group perfectly suited to tackle music ranging from rhythmically propulsive to obliquely -and, at times, ethereally – abstract.
Eckemoff’s music isn’t always an easy ride, with tracks like the maelstrom-like “Condor” and angular yet appealing “Colors of Nothingness” representing some of her most obscure writing ever. But these tracks, when taken together with the rhythm heavy optimism of “Oasis” and unabashed lyricism of “Garden of Eden,” create a conceptual whole that explores Eckemoff’s subject matter with the greater musical breadth that it so richly deserves.
Many musicians have concepts that drive particular recordings, but few make albums as thematically focused as Eckemoff, who also paints her own cover art and often contributes self-penned poetry to help further the contexts of her multifarious musical predilections.
Eckemoff’s playing continues to evolve at a seemingly exponential pace; combined, as it is here, with Andersen’s visceral yet eminently singing bass lines, Erskine’s capacity for layering effervescent yet delicate grooves with broad-stroked colors, and McCandless’ ability to render even the sparest of lines as deeply personal as his more soaring improvisational flights, Eckemoff’s increasingly recognizable combination of complex yet eminently persuasive writing and thoughtfully conceptualized pianism makes the richly envisioned Desert yet another move forward.
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.
Moscow-born pianist and composer Yelena Eckemoff is indeed very hard-working. After “Leaving Everything Behind” from 2016 and “Blooming Tall Phlox” and “In The Shadow Of A Cloud” from 2017, Desert is the fourth release in a row. Despite the relatively similar emotional expression of the music, this one is very different in the overall picture, due to the different musicians who bring in their respective notes. On this record it is the oboe player Paul McCandless, who is well-known by the group Oregon. And it is he who is able to portray the title Desert very well with his special style, not only on the oboe, but with his other instruments so that the listener can look up through the door that he opens to wide landscapes. Some pieces are also affected a bit by oriental influence, evident right at the beginning with “Bedouins.”
The fact that the four professionals can also be on the move, however, immediately shows “Mirages” with its free elements that open the rooms wide, without immediately completely push into free jazz. Finally, Andersen on the bass and Erskine on the drums, who subtly hold the music on the ground, Erskine reminds sometimes of his colleague Paul Motian. The compositions are again reminiscent of the classical trained background of the pianist, and so combine the different elements to a whole often beautiful sounding whole, “Desert’s Cry” is for example a reference tip.
And so the four musicians playfully escort us through the desert with the eleven pieces that make the album stand out as a concept album. 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 a theme excellently and creating tension that links elements of classical music and folklore with jazz.
Die aus Moskau stammende Pianistin und Komponistin Yelena Eckemoff ist in der Tat sehr fleißig. Desert ist nach “Leaving Everything Behind“ aus 2016 und “Blooming Tall Phlox“ sowie “In The Shadow Of A Cloud” aus 2017 bereits die vierte Veröffentlichung in Folge. Trotz des relativ ähnlichen emotionalen Ausdrucks der Musik ist diese doch, aufgrund der verschiedenen Musiker, die ihre jeweilige Note stark einbringen, ganz unterschiedlich im Gesamtbild. Auf dieser Platte ist es der von der Gruppe Oregon bekannte Oboen-Spieler Paul McCandless, der sehr prägend wirkt. Und gerade er ist es, der den Titel Desert sehr gut darstellen kann mit seinem speziellem Stil, nicht nur auf der Oboe, so dass dem Hörer Tür und Tor zu weiten Landschaften geöffnet werden. Ein wenig wirkt das eine oder andere Stück auch mit orientalischem Einfluss behaftet, gleich zu Beginn bei “Bedouins“ allein wegen des Titels offensichtlich.
Dass die vier Profis aber auch anders unterwegs sein können, zeigt sogleich “Mirages“ mit seinen freien Elementen, die die Räume weit öffnen, ohne gleich komplett in den Free Jazz vorzustoßen. Letztlich sind es auch Andersen am Bass und Erskine am Schlagzeug, die ganz subtil die Musik am Boden halten, dabei erinnert Erskine mitunter an seinen Kollegen Paul Motian. Den Kompositionen vermag man abermals den klassisch geschulten Hintergrund der Pianistin anmerken, und so paaren sich die verschiedenen Elemente zu einem oft ganz wunderschön klingenden Ganzen, “Desert’s Cry“ ist zum Beispiel ein Anspieltipp.
Und so geleiten uns die vier Musiker spielerisch durch die Wüste mit den elf Stücken, die das Album insofern in den Stand eines Konzeptalbums hieven. Tief in die Materie eindringend, durch das niveauvolle Spiel der Band eng miteinander verflochten, erlebt man eine Dramatik, die sich zwischen den Polen Stille und Unruhe bewegt, mit Melancholie und zarter Romantik ausgestattet. Erneut ist es Yelena Eckemoff gelungen, ein Thema vortrefflich darzustellen und Spannung zu schaffen, die Elemente klassischer Musik und der Folklore mit dem Jazz verknüpft.
She was born and raised in Moscow, emigrated with her family to North Carolina and knows deserts mainly from books. But if you think that Yelena Eckemoff is not directly exposed to the Bedouins, that sand dunes and dust storms prevent her from recording a work that evokes these things, then you don’t know the power of this pianist/composer’s imagination.
Yelena Eckemoff is shaped by her Russian soul. With their modern, sometimes revealing approach and the weight and intensity of their music, they and their music are strikingly original.
Desert captures the Arabian desert in all its mysterious and natural charms not only with its 11 thematically connected compositions, but also with original poems, prose and (as it often offers it) album art.
Musenblatter – Das unabhangige Kulturmagazin Yelena Eckemoff – “Desert”
© 2018 Yelena Eckemoff
Yelena Eckemoff (p, comp) – Paul McCandless (obor, ss, cl) – Arild Andersen (b) – Peter Erskine (dr, perc)
Sie ist in Moskau geboren und aufgewachsen , mit ihrer Familia nach North Carolina ausgewandert und kennt Wusten hauptsachlich aus Buchern. Aber wenn Sie denken, dass Yelena Eckemoff nicht direkt den Beduinen ausgesetzt ist, dass Sanddunen und Staubsturme sie davon abhalten, ein Werk aufzunehmen, das diese Dinge hervorruft, dann kennen Sie nicht die Macht der Fantasia dieser Pianistin / Komponistin.
Yelena Eckemoff ist gepragt von ihrer russischen Seele. Mit ihrem modernen, manchmal freizugigen Ansatz und dem Gewicht und der lntensitat ihrer Musik sind sie und ihre Musik auffallend originell.
Desert fangt die arabische Wuste in all ihren geheimnisvollen und naturlichen Reizen nicht nur mit ihren 11 thematisch verbundenen Kompositionen ein, sondern auch mit originalen Gedichten, Prosa und (wie sie es haufig anbietet) Album-Kunst.
Pianist Yelena Eckemoff has released a catalogue of impressive albums in varying formats. This time around, she creates a quartet anchored by Peter Erskine/dr and Arild Anderson/b and featuring the iconic Paul McCandless on a wide variety of horns while focusing on the oboe for this collection of desert moods. 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.
Pianist Yelena Eckemoff’s backstory doesn’t suggest the potential for a rise to the category of top level jazz pianist. But here she is, after emigrating to the U.S. from Russia with her husband—leaving her children (temporarily) and everything else (permanently) behind in 1991 to escape repression and to start a new life. Classically trained in her homeland, Eckemoff came to jazz relatively late. With persistence, talent, ambition, audacity and a seemingly unshakable optimism, she has navigated her way to the top echelon of the jazz world and created a substantial discography of very good to excellent recordings, collaborating with the cream of rhythm section cohorts—bassists Arild Andersen and Jon Christensen, drummers Peter Erskine and Billy Hart.
Eckemoff doesn’t go about her craft by throwing a bunch of disparate tunes or ideas together. What she does is establish themes—such as Lions (L & H Production, 2012), or remembered aromas from her childhood, Blooming Tall Phlox (L & H Production, 2013)—fashioning herself into a master conceptualist.
Eckemoff’s first release of 2018—she is persistently prolific—is Desert, a musical exploration of the magic of vast and seemingly barren lands, of mirages and drifting, whispering sands, of muted pastels of vast, wide-open spaces.
She has chosen to employ for the project the previously mentioned teammates, bassist Arild Anderson and drummer Peter Erskine. New to her ensemble is multiple reedman Paul McCandless, a founding member of the group Oregon.
A Middle-Eastern mood pervades on a set of Eckemoff originals, sounds tinted by the influence of the Arabian peninsula: “Bedouins,” “Mirages,” “Desert Cry” and “Colors Of Nothingness.” 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. Especially compelling is her short story “Bedouins.” She is proving herself as fine a writer as she is a musician on this excellent work of art.
When the coils of time were dissolved, the desert endured.—Yelena Eckemoff, from her poem “Desert Remained.”
Russian born pianist/composer Yelena Eckemoff was classically trained before moving to the United States in the ‘90s, but has now reached a wonderful blend of her classical skills and background with contemporary jazz approaches.
Her latest concept album is a tribute to the Arabian Desert with a series of thematically linked compositions. The moods leave no room for anything but visions of sand, expanses, and the people who live there. Eckemoff’s quartet has Paul McCandless on oboe, English horn and saxes, Arild Andersen bass and Peter Erskine drums. The inclusion of McCandless’ oboe is an inspired move.
Eckemoff says, “I thought of Paul McCandless and his oboe, on which he is so expressive, and decided this is the sound I wanted. Peter (Erskine) helped me connect with Paul, who really is the reason for this group. As for Arild (Andersen) and Peter, they had just the right voices for my melodies and compositions. I feel like when I have these guys around, I can do anything.”
Titles such as Bedouins, Mirages, Desert Cry, Oasis, Dust Storm and others all evoke the corresponding feelings. 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.
****1/2 out of five stars
Steam these: Bedouins, Dance
This concept album, a suite, features a quartet with a couple of familiar names. The reedman (particularly haunting oboe) is Paul McCandless, renown for his work with the group Oregon. Having played with classical and jazz groups since 1972, drummer-percussionist Peter Erksine has over 700 albums to his credit plus a honorary doctorate from Berklee School of Music. The bassist is Arild Andersen, a veteran at age 72; he is an internationally respected sideman since 1964. Leading the quartet as pianist and composer is Russian-born Yelena Eckemoff, who has issued a flurry of thematic albums since 2010. Her classical training and teaching are quickly recognized in her jazz scores.
The 11 tracks over 74 minutes are impressions of deserts and their inhabitants. 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. The evocative titles, such as Bedouins, Mirages, Oasis, Dust Storm, and Sands, set the mood of each musical poem…..or story, as Eckemoff, seen in package notes, has written her own fanciful Arabian tales and poems for each work. Neither romantic Rimsky-Korsakov nor the whispy ECM jazz sound, the music finds a middle ground (as defined by Oregon over the many decades). A highlight of the album is the track Dance, which is the exemplar of Eckemoff’s approach. Mirage is noted by the number and variety of Romantic themes. The dark, forlorn and dissonant Colors of Nothingness continues with the soaring Condor, and even Garden of Eden is covered by sad sands. Twice is nice: 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.