Russian-born pianist and composer Eckemoff, long a New York resident, collaborates with a superb rhythm section of Scandinavian musicians. They are inspired by creatures that populate the world’s forests of the night. Eckemoff’s animals range from those we humans seldom see…cicadas, scorpions, fireflies, walkingsticks…to those familiar from daily life and folklore…wolves, bats, owls, grizzly bears, snakes. She and her collaborators are anchored by the stentorian Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen and include percussionists Jon Christensen and Thomas Strønen. Her compositions tend toward the lyrical, as in this one inspired by the fox she painted for the album cover.
This is an interesting quartet, to say the least, a Russian pianist, a Norwegian bassist, an Oregon reed player and a bebop drummer—Yelena Eckemoff; piano; Paul McCandless, oboe, English horn, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Arild Anderson, bass; Peter Erskine, drums and percussion. As she prepared this latest in her impressive succession of themed L&H albums, Ms. Eckemoff chose musicians who could picture and feel the desert she conceived. The vision extends to the short-short story and descriptive poems she wrote in the liner notes and her atmospheric painting that makes the cover of the booklet. The music visualizes the unnamed desert to which she gives sonic life. McCandless’s oboe is notably evocative in that regard. Ms. Eckemoff’s own playing leads the way, harmonically and in depth of keyboard tone, as she establishes the album’s feeling of mystery and languor. Eckemoff’s concept is akin to that of many albums released on the ECM label over the years, making it a natural setting for bassist Andersen, often a leader of ECM sessions. Erskine’s percussion array allows him to generate colors beyond his customary mainstream palette.
Cleaver joins pianist Yelena Eckemoff in this impressive two-CD album of original compositions. Now a New Yorker, the Russian-born Eckemoff includes, along with Cleaver on drums, three more of the city’s most prominent jazz artists; saxophonist/flutist Chris Potter, guitarist Adam Rogers and bassist Drew Gress. As in Blooming Tall Phlox earlier in 2017 and several other albums on her L&H label, Eckemoff’s classical training is apparent in her playing and in the impeccable construction of compositions recalling her life and family in Russia. Her continuing collaborations with leading American and European musicians reflect her status in the jazz community. That was as true of the acceptance and enthusiasm of the four young Finns who joined her for Blooming Tall Phlox as it is for the US stars of this new Eckemoff venture. Among the highlights are the evocative title tune with its melding of nostalgia and urgency, the unrepressed excitement of “On the Motorboat,” Potter’s floating soprano saxophone in the irresistible “Waltz of the Yellow Petals,” and “The Fog,” in which Gress’s bass line buoys a feeling that manages to be at once mysterious and reassuring. Throughout, Eckemoff’s impeccable keyboard touch, harmonic resourcefulness and intriguing compositions make In the Shadow of a Cloud an important addition to the discography of a pianist whose reputation continues to expand.