Pianist Yelena Eckemoff has band it a point to think and compose outside the box. In fact, I am sure there is no box, only Echemoff’s free expression as fusion between the musical and temporal worlds to achieve a spiritual one. Nocturnal Animals focuses on the living existence of animals that live by night. Eckemoff employs a standard jazz piano trio augmented with an additional drummer (Jon Christensen and Thomas Thomas Stronen). Tactile and timeworthy, the drums provide the time and tempo of life, from quiet rumination to frenetic scurrying, it does not take to much imagination to hear the life in the percussion. That leaves the pianist with bassist Arild Andersen with whom she share much creative empathy. Listen and imagine the lives of the bat, fox, and walkingstick defined through music.
C. Michael Bailey
Sacred music comes in many forms and from many inspirations. Historically, it has always been a cornerstone of our shared musical story. Regardless of one’s conviction, this tradition is a part of us and will continue to be. Russian composer and pianist Yelena Eckemoff was an atheist in the former Soviet Union before coming to the United States seeking material, cultural, and spiritual freedom. The latter she found in Christianity, first through the Russian Orthodox text and then the King James Bible, from where she takes her settings of selected Psalms. Eckemoff breaks up the lengthy Psalm 119, dispersing it among Psalms 58, 110, 126, 131, and 147. The composer has divided her project over two CDs, one with vocals, and the second, instrumental only. She employs the tenor voice of Tomas Cruz and mezzo soprano Kim Mayo, who solo and duet throughout. Her band is stellar, including: trumpeter Ralph Alessi, guitarist Ben Monder, violinist Christian Howes, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Joey Baron. The music is sublimely introspective with an angular trajectory and evolution. Quietly contemplative and deeply moving.