The expanse of Yelena Eckemoff’s ambition here correlates to the prestige of her accompanists. Members of one rhythm section for I Am A Stranger In This World, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Joey Baron, are just two of a distinguished roster who contribute to the momentum of music that never flags during the shifting textures of the arrangements. The composer/leader’s piano sets an authoritative tone within which Ralph Alessi’s trumpet is no more or less prominent than the electric guitars of Adam Rogers and Ben Monder, so the resultant instrumental mesh imbues this work with a vigorous spontaneity.
Like the photos of lovely gardens on the cover, the music on these two CDs invites quiet contemplation. The ensemble itself, in fact, may seem as entranced in their playing as listeners will become in hearing it, but the musicianship never loses its sense of purpose and direction. And there’s no lack of contrast either, as guitars, saxophones, and vibes add a variety of colors to tracks like “Germination.” To further ensure that the title suits the cut, new ideas abound throughout too: this sextet radiates an implicit but abiding sense of mutual trust in their shared imagination. No doubt that faith is based in large measure on the way bassist Antti Lotjonen on bass and drummer Olavi Louhivuori supplies a reliable sense of rhythm, no matter how subliminal it might sometimes be. Eighteen tracks here, ranging in length from around five minutes to nine plus, blend into a perfectly cohesive whole.