Brad Walseth for Jazz Chicago

Yelena Eckemoff is a conservatory-trained, Russian-born classical concert pianist who embraced Christianity, fled the Soviet Union and moved to North Carolina in the early 1990s. Cold Sun is a piano trio release from Eckemoff which focuses on impressions of winter scenes (a follow up – entitled Grass Catching the Wind is to be released soon as well). There is an ECM-feel to the pieces, which meld improvisation and composition, and classical and jazz elements intricately and seamlessly. The talented artist is aided by the strong presence of Grammy-winning Danish bassist Mads Vinding and veteran drummer Peter Erskine – both of whom are stellar in adding contributions to the pianist’s compositions. Erskine is more well-known perhaps for his big band work and fusion work with Weather Report, but here he displays a shimmering range of Motian-like sounds that sparkle like sunlight on snow. 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.