Maria Miaoulis for The Celebrity Cafe

Pianist and composer Yelena Eckemoff undoubtedly turns heads (and raises many eyebrows) when listeners hear her rare blend of classical chamber music and progressive jazz on her latest CD, Forget-me-not. The Russian-born musician learned to play piano by ear at the tender age of four and has been composing since age five. She went on to study concert piano at the renowned Moscow State Conservatory and established quite a name for herself before moving to the US in 1991, avoiding the collapse of the Soviet Union. Over the years, Eckemoff has released several records, composing for various instruments in the genres of jazz, classical music and experimental jazz-rock, all styles which are heavily featured on Forget-me-not. Together with bassist Mats Eilertsen and former Miles Davis percussionist Marilyn Mazur, the album was recorded in just two days at a Denmark recording studio. The 10 original compositions are chameleon-like, switching between structure and improv with such fluidity that the transitions are seamless. My personal favorite is “Sand-Glass,” a piece with a very simple melody adorned with mysterious effects that make it completely mesmerizing. Overall, the record is intriguing and intellectually stimulating. At times romantic, often eerie, but always intimate, it’s as though a dreamy mist descends upon you while you’re listening to it.