Title: Russian, US-domiciled pianist in the Evans mould is inspired by the trials and triumphs of a lonely man who retires with a fish for company.
A lonely man retires and acquires a fish as a pet. Things go (very) well until disaster strikes … but it all works out well in the end, in the beautiful dream that life can be. Such is the humble yet extraordinary stimulus that led to this latest album from the Russia-born but America-domiciled Yelena Eckemoff, released on her own label, L & H Productions.
As I’ve had occasion to remark before, Eckemoff is a special pianist and composer, a special artist. Her freshly conceived and most thoughtful recordings, as diversely lyrical and atmospheric as they are rhythmically and harmonically enticing, are distinguished by a changing and imaginative employment of musicians, selected from some of the world’s finest – from Arild Andersen and Marilyn Mazur on out. Often in double-CD format, they feature Eckemoff’s original figurative paintings as well as her stories, parables and poems. But whatever ostensible narrative such factors may suggest, Eckemoff’s music remains pure (post-Evans) music.
Here she draws upon an especially distinctive range of players. They range from the “golden-toned” Danish cornetist Kirk Knuffke (whose 2017 Cherryco paid ringing tribute to the Don) to Eric Harland, the superb drummer known especially for his contributions to the music of Charles Lloyd and who handles the rhythmically fluid character of Eckemoff’s shape-shifting poetics with what one might call potent grace. Ben Street is an excellent, dynamically aware bassist who will be familiar to Eckemoff buffs, while Japanese-born but New York resident flautist Masure Koga, a new name to me, shines on shakuhachi and other Japanese flutes, especially on CD2: hear Into The Wild.
I never tire of Eckemoff’s imagistic and essentially poetic world, rendered as it is with such literate yet open-minded pianism and group sensitivity. Lonely Man And His Fish is a beautiful, emotionally and musically probing addition to an already most remarkable discography.