Ed Enright for Downbeat

Yelena Eckemoff has drawn from a tonal palette of deep greens and blues in crafting the 13 compositions for her latest project, Romance Of The Moon, which features Sardinian trumpet player Paolo Fresu as the primary lead voice for her instrumental interpretations of 13 poems by the Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca (1898–1936). The Russian-born pianist, who is so focused on expanding her already wide-ranging body of compositional work that she no longer performs live, has produced at least one new recording every year since she released her breakout concept album Cold Sun in 2010. Long based in North Carolina, she’s known for choosing some of the finest improvisers in Europe and and the U.S. to interpret and record her music. Romance Of The Moon fits her established M.O. to a “T,” with the Rome-based rhythm section of bassist Luca Bulgarelli and drummer Stephano Bagnoli providing hypersensitive support and Italian guitar maestro Riccardo Bertuzzi replacing Fresu on four tracks. The Romance Of The Moon is a gentle, thoughtfully paced collection of aural watercolors that come across as somber, mournful laments spattered with moments of stormy anguish and oozing with soothing doses of whimsical humor. The album cover and booklet art, which Eckemoff painted herself, represent the mood of not just the music within, but also the very poems and text that inspire it. Eckemoff provides her own English-language translation of each poem in the booklet, so you can get right to the heart of the source material and reap more extensive rewards than you’d get by listening alone. The musicians, too, were provided with translations — in Italian — to help them fully absorb the music and its poetic messages. From concept to completion, Romance Of The Moon marks yet another major success for the classically schooled Eckemoff, whose inherently selfless music is only finished “when recorded with jazz musicians,” she says. “I design the project for them to be able to express themselves.”