5.0 out of 5 stars
Title: I’m Always Careful to say “The Best …. “
Especially with Yelena, because every time I listen to her latest release I say to myself “My God, this one’s her best one yet!” And then normally I’ll then play the one just before, and then I’ll go back and play a few more. I consider myself very lucky to have them all, and I pop them into the drawer of the CD player probably more often than any other single artist. Following the journey from her first piano trio recordings and on through the continuing changes as each new release comes out has been a journey I truly hope to never end. With “I Am A Stranger In This World” Yelena has once again chosen an ideal selection of sidemen to support the thoughts that she had as she wrote each Psalm. The manner in which she changes the mood, alters the tempo and weaves through the very mysteries of her melodies always holds my attention in a tight grip. On this album I especially enjoyed the playing of Ralph Alessi. His playing is always right on the mark, and his ease at dipping into the Avant Garde is just fun, and I enjoy that each player has his own signature sound, but in whichever combination Yelena has them set up throughout the recording is their interplay feels completely natural. Once again I can very simply sum up “I’m A Stranger In This World” by saying, “Yelena, thank you so much and I can hardly wait for the next!”
5.0 out of 5 stars
Title: A Beautiful, Inspirational Bloom
Reviewed in the United States on May 24, 2021
Here again, we have the compositional creativity and melodic mastery as always given to us by Yelena Eckemoff, and presented to us by Yelena and her always excellent selection of sidemen. This collection blooms for the listener from Ethereal to Avant Garde and even a touch of Fusion, all swirling around a core of pure, unfettered jazz.
The musical story presented here by Yelena is peaceful and fun, but it’s the music that just grabs you. The interplay between Yelena and her band is, as always, just top-notch. Her ability to connect with players of like minds and styles is uncanny. While one or two are at the fore, someone is always busy in the background with all sorts of intricacies. The vibraphonist (Panu Savolainen) puts forth his expertise steadily throughout the record, as does the reeds player (Jukka Perko). The often background, but steady and fascinating playing by guitarist (Jarmo Saari) keeps your ears glued to music. And as always the rhythmic core of bassist (Antili Lotjonen) and brilliant drummer (Olavi Louhivuori) keep things pushing forward with panache, elan and with perfect cohesion and force.
At least for this listener, the added bonus is how the story so matches my own here in Vermont. With the change of seasons, our having pollinator gardens that draw hummingbirds and butterflies, it really touches the hearts of my wife and me. As I play it I can see my dog out in the yard, indeed chasing a mouse (or chipmunk, squirrel, etc.), the constant activity of weeding and tending the garden, and just generally being one with nature. Just as when I play this album I feel as one with the music.
Another brilliant showing by Yelena and Co., destined to be one of the most significant albums of 2021.
Once again, jazz pianist and virtuoso Yelena Eckemoff has created a feast for our ears, with this feast taking place at night and in the wild. Yelena chooses animals that typically thrive in the dark hours and crafts musical impressions of them. Her innate depth and understanding of music allows her to represent each critter so that we can actually picture it creeping about in the night, be they hunting, foraging or just gently resting. From the gentle Walkingstick, softly landing near us with grace and delicacy to the ferocity of the mighty Grizzly Bear roaring toward us. Yelena’s brilliance along with the strong, tight bass lines from the legendary veteran Arild Andersen and with the intricate juxtaposition of master drummers Thomas Stronen and Jon Christensen allow us to see and sense the sly Fox in the night, but also the aggressive nature of the mighty Wolf. The sneaky rattlesnake is almost feared behind closed eyes, as well as the sting of the Scorpion. From start to finish, this 2-CD set grabs onto the listener and just refuses to let go, and the anticipation of which of God’s creations will be in the room with us next credits Yelena’s mastery of the piano. Her ability to set a musical stage that brings the listener into the lair, den, hole or tree of each animal is rewarding beyond words. Don’t be surprised, when you get it, to find yourself in Yelena’s forest for many an escape. A higher recommendation I could not make, and Nocturnal Animals leaves me breathless to hear what realm she conquers next.