Russian-born pianist and composer Eckemoff, long a New York resident, collaborates with a superb rhythm section of Scandinavian musicians. They are inspired by creatures that populate the world’s forests of the night. Eckemoff’s animals range from those we humans seldom see…cicadas, scorpions, fireflies, walkingsticks…to those familiar from daily life and folklore…wolves, bats, owls, grizzly bears, snakes. She and her collaborators are anchored by the stentorian Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen and include percussionists Jon Christensen and Thomas Strønen. Her compositions tend toward the lyrical, as in this one inspired by the fox she painted for the album cover.
This is an interesting quartet, to say the least, a Russian pianist, a Norwegian bassist, an Oregon reed player and a bebop drummer—Yelena Eckemoff; piano; Paul McCandless, oboe, English horn, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Arild Anderson, bass; Peter Erskine, drums and percussion. As she prepared this latest in her impressive succession of themed L&H albums, Ms. Eckemoff chose musicians who could picture and feel the desert she conceived. The vision extends to the short-short story and descriptive poems she wrote in the liner notes and her atmospheric painting that makes the cover of the booklet. The music visualizes the unnamed desert to which she gives sonic life. McCandless’s oboe is notably evocative in that regard. Ms. Eckemoff’s own playing leads the way, harmonically and in depth of keyboard tone, as she establishes the album’s feeling of mystery and languor. Eckemoff’s concept is akin to that of many albums released on the ECM label over the years, making it a natural setting for bassist Andersen, often a leader of ECM sessions. Erskine’s percussion array allows him to generate colors beyond his customary mainstream palette.