Yelena Eckemoff Quartet: Everblue In a quick follow-up to her masterful two CD set Lions, Russian-born and now North Carolina-based pianist Yelena Eckemoff offers up Everblue, the most “ECM Records-sounding” set not on that deservedly esteemed label. It is, rather, released on her own L&H Productions.
The names of the sidemen on the date explain in part the ECM-like sound: saxophonist Tore Brunborg, bassist Arild Andersen, and drummer Jon Christensen, the Norwegian contingent, are all long time ECM Records artists, as leaders and hired guns for other players, and their long term contributions have been instrumental in shaping the ECM aesthetic of subtlety, intricacy, and fluid motion.
Refined beauty, coming from a place of deep commitment combined with the foundation of a serious musical education, mixed with spontaneous joy, a relentless searching for the divine and a childlike sense of wonder is what makes Yelena Eckemoff’s music so special, so edge-of-the-seat mesmerizing. With her Norwegian bandmates, the sum of the parts adds up to unfathomable whole. The music glows, as if enveloped in an aura. Everyone solos, nobody solos? Sometimes that means an auditory mess. But Eckemoff’s music has such of preconceived structure that the “thread” never unravels or tangles. On Everblue, the tunes sound like written-out pieces with a judicious flexibility built in for the individual players. Some of ECM Records to which Everblue can be compared (the sets falling into the Euro-folkloric aesthetic) can sound placid, in a very good sense of the word. With Everblue the sound here always has an “edge,” a dynamic four-way input of the individual parts that never allows the listener’s attention to wane: Brunborg’s organically sacred sax work on tenor and soprano, Andersen’s sharp, singing bass lines, Christansen’s rustling drum work, the ringing cymbal accents, Eckemoff’s virtuosic, crystalline touch and prayerful, gorgeous immediacy.
There are ten tunes here, eight by Eckmoff and two by Andersen. The Ecklemoff-penned tunes explore the conept of beaches and oceans, while Andersen’s are more abstract, freer. Eckemoff painted the cover art, and wrote poems (included in the cover booklet) for each of her songs. She has, after a career as in classical and sacred music, evolved—in five short years and eight jazz albums—into a major jazz artist
The year 2015 has been a productive one for Yelena Eckemoff, with two extraordinary recordings—Lions and Everblue, both sets worthy of end-of-the-year, top ten list consideration.