George W. Harris
title: SELAH…Yelena Eckemoff: I Am A Stranger In This World
I have yet to hear an album by pianist/composer Yelena Eckemoff that hasn’t hit me right in my soul. She has created a catalogue of albums focusing on various themes, from times of the year to food. This time around, she re-visits her treatment of various Biblical Psalms and gives them instrumental interpretations to mix the mood of The Great Davidic Songbook.
Eckemoff is joined by all stars Ralph Alessi/tp, Adam Rogers/g, Drew Gress/b, Christian Howes/v, Ben Monder/g, Joey Baron/dr and Nasheet Waits/dr in mix and match fashion. The moods range from Howe yearning on “Every Beast of the Field” to reflective piano on “The Wine of Astonishment”. The keys get dark for Alessi on “Keep Not Your Silence” while Rogers gets bluesy for “Lighten My Eyes” and folksy for “ Truth In His Heart”. Soulful penetrating harmonies get funky with Waits for “At Midnight I Will Rise” and the team goes post bopping on “Make Haste to Help Me”. You don’t need to know the words of the Psalms for these instrumentals, but the songs let us know that we could use them for our own pilgrimage. Inspired inspirations.
Pianist and composer Yelena Eckemoff has been creating a catalogue of music dedicated to various topics ranging from animals to weather. This time around, she creates a series of songs dedicated to wildflowers with her team of Jarmo Saari/g-gharp, Jukka Perko/ss-ts, Panu Savolainen/vib, Antti Lotjonen/b and Olavi Louhivuor/dr-perc on this two disc set of music that is set to “stories” not unlike ones in children’s books to accompany the musical moods.
The 18 songs include a whirring “Baby Columbines” with ethereal piano, while the harmonies hover like a mist on “Another Winter”. Pretty guitar is folksy with vibes on “In The Ground” while things are a bit abstract on “Germination”. Perko’s soprano bops on the cheerful “Dogs Chasing A Mouse” and is artsy on the more intuitive “Home By The Fence” with Louhivuori’s brushes dance on the pretty swinger “Weeding The Garden”. Vibes and piano play peek-a-boo on ‘Rain” with sounds of the desert floating on “Drought”. Songs of a story.
Pianist and composer Yelena Eckemoff has built up a catalogue of impressively themed albums. This recent one is a two-disc affair with bassist Arild Andersen and drummers Jon Christensen and Thomas Stronen. The songs are dedicated to and reflective of various animals in their habitat, ranging from Bats, to owls to even the firefly getting some publicity.
The sounds include an swinging bass and drums for the hip line of “Lynx” with some abstract floating on “Firefly.” “Wolf” is a crystalline delight with piano and bass sparkling and pianistic reflections glisten on “Walkingstick.” There is a floating feel to “Sea” turtle and you can feel the hooting on “Owl” and rich harmonies on “Hedgehog.” A Saint Francis of sounds.
****RINGER OF THE WEEK****THE TREASURY OF DAVID…Yelena Eckemoff: Better Than Gold and Silver
Pianist and composer Yelena Eckemoff has built up an impressive and wide ranging catalogue, and this is not the first time one of her albums has gotten my ROTW award. This two disc set is particularly ambitious, as it has her delving into one of the oldest “Songbooks” around, that of King David.
The two disc set has Eckemoff and her strong team of Ralph Alessi/tp, Ben Monder/g, Christian Howes/vi, Drew Gress/b and Joey Baron/dr giving interpretations of Psalms 119, 131, 126, 58 and 147. One disc has the
voices of Tomas Cruz/ten and Kim Mayo/sop interpreting the lyrics, while the other one is strictly instrumental, with the length of each song increasing in time without voice.
The results are highly successful in either environment, as Cruz is earnest on the elegiac “Psalm 131,” warm with Alessi on “Psalm 119 Jod” and bluesy teaming with Gress during “Psalm 147.” The two sing out sublimely together on “Psalm 119 Lamed” (there are, after all 22 divisions of the long Psalm), and Mayo delves into some dark harmonies with Eckemoff on “Psalm 58.”
On the instrumental side, while there are no harps a la the original composer, Eckemoff and company create a soft foundation for Alessi on “Psalm 131” and Howe is glowingly warm during “Psalm 119 Nun.” Baron and Gress team up with Eckemoff to create ripples along the River Jordan on “Psalm 119 Teth” with Alessi doing a West Coast of the Jordan Cool read of “Psalm 119 Jod.” The team stretches out with a gentle cadence on “Psalm 147” with the leader’s piano creating a balm in Gilead along with Monder and Howes’s strings. This is a joy on a plethora of levels, serving heart, soul and ears.
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 and composer Yelena Eckemoff continues to release impressive material that is both melodic and adventurous. This time she releases a double album worth of material with the flexible and sensitive team of Adam Rogers/g, Drew Gress/b, Gerald Cleaver/dr and Chris Potter, who brings a wide palate of woodwinds.
With Potter on tenor, Rogers is gentle and the mood is pastoral on a lovely title track, while Gress and piano rumble on “Fishing Village” and the team is gallant on “Trail Along the River.” A brooding bass clarinet mixes with piano reflections on “The Fog” with a placid flute drifting over a loping bass and crisp drum on “Waters of Tsna River.” Rogers is prismatic on “Hammock Stories” and reflective with Potter’s soprano sax during “Tambov Streets on a Summer Night” with some bluesy bass creating hues with the saxist on “Lament.” Eckemoff creates scenes like a water color artist, with soft tones and rich textures on the canvas. Rewarding!
Is she ever coming to the West Coast?
Pianist/composer Yelena Eckemoff delivers a charming two disc album that delivers sonic pictures of summer and winter. The band of her with Verneri Pohjola/tp-fh, Panu Savolainen/vib, Antti Lotjonen/b and Olavi Louhivuori/dr-perc create audible impressions of various seasonal associations.
For instance, disc one consists of “Summer Smells” which includes “Blooming Tall Phlox” sounding like crystalline and gentle piano, wafting flugelhorn and pulsing bass. The calm vibes chime on “Apples Laid Out On The Floor” while Louhivuori rustles and Pohjola puffs on “ Wildflower Meadows.” You can feel the sounds of the campfire as the percussion snaps like dried twigs during “Sleeping in the Tent” and some mystical piano jins with Eckemoff’s ivories for a rich scent of “Fish Fried on Open Fire.”
For “Winter Smells” Louhivuori’s brushes skate on a lake while Pohjola brews on “Talks Over Hot Tea” and you can smell the must on the shelves as piano and vibes create shadows on “Grandpa Lera’s Bookcase.” Delicate toy-like chimes flutter on “Clementines and Candies on Christmas Tree” and after a fragrant jaunt on “Aunt Galya’s Perfume” the team closes in an Auld Lang Syne cheerful and nostalgic “Scented Candles and Sparkling Wine.”
Two fewer seasons than Vivaldi, but with more stories and characters.
Pianist Yelena Eckemoff consistently releases material that is deeply thought provoking and reflective. This time out, she leads a team with all stars Billy Hart/dr, Ben Street/b and for added exoticism, violinist Mark Feldman through a collection of originals.
The songs are impressionistic and filled with water colors of sound. Hart’s mallets are thoughtful taps on “Prologue” while he deftly brushes along with Street on the rustling “Mushroom Rain.” Feldman’s violin cries on the aria “Spots of Light” and is starry with a glistening vibrato on “Hope Lives Eternal.” Eckemoff herself is able to be fun and frollicky on the Isaac Hayes-inspired “Love Train” and creates moonlit shadows during “Rising From Within.” Her fall back feeling is pensive reflection, doing it most effectively on “Ocean of Pines,” while tapping into her gypsy soul with Feldman on “Coffee & Thunderstorm.”
Delicately delivered strong material.
Yelena Eckemoff spotlights her gentle and gracious touch as she leads a team of Arild Andersen/b, Jon Christensen/dr and Tore Brunborg/ts through a collection of subtle originals. Brunborg’s tenor blows soft and fluffy along with Christensen’s brushes on material like “Everblue” and the floating “Skyline.” Eckemoff and Andersen interplay reflectively along with the nimbus tenor on “All Things, Seen and Unseen,” while bass and cymbal macke some interesting intersections on Anderson’s “Prism.” Eckemoff displays childlike joy on the lyrical “Sea-Breeze” and goes nocturnal on “Blue Lamp.” The entire album is filled with serenading moods, akin to an audio sun set. Endearing.