What better gift to receive — having made it through what appears to be the worst of our ongoing, and horribly destructive, global pandemic — than a gift borne of the very opposite of such physical destruction, namely, that of spiritual creation? Yelena Eckemoff’s latest, thoroughly multimedia album is just exactly what the doctor ordered…
Ms. Eckemoff features yet again a combined synthesis of the most advanced presentation of contemporary jazz (more about that soon), her own illustrations of the theme du jour (natural beauty), and her original poetry to accompany and amplify the former. A total package!
In fact, if as Oscar Wilde observed — “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” — then how else can I explain that my own daughter, Amanda, and I have managed to keep our souls alive through COVID by co-creating just such a melange of recorded music and poetry (mine) coupled with photographs and artistic treatments (Amanda’s)? Yelena: your intrepid artistry has rubbed off in the most felicitous way imaginable, and we thank you!
Back to the musical portion of Ms. Eckemoff’s latest offering: I have loved every single album of her prodigious career, and yet this newest one may well be my favorite of all. Why is that? Yelena has brought together once again a truly sterling ensemble (this time, from Finland) whose skills and sonorities I find to be the ideal vehicle for the composer’s imagination. Yelena orchestrates her piano-based jazz compositions for a never richer palette of sounds: everything from vibraphone, electric guitar, and Theremin (yes, you heard me correctly!) to stellar support from surely one of my favorite drummers on the planet (Olavi Louhivuori), along with jazz sax and bass contributions that just consistently work.
Yelena has never created such sumptuously gorgeous music right up next to daring avant-garde leaps into the abstract, and back again, quite like Adventures of the Wildflower. From the moment I fired up this new disc, I was taken into what felt like her private universe of highly unusual and personal colors, one more varied than ever before, yet as integrated in overall conception as virtually everyone of her recordings has been. I personally believe it’s Yelena’s deep background in classical music that makes for such rich tapestries in her compositional and arranging skill set. When she combines that, as she consistently does, with an improviser’s heart (and ear)…well, I’m not sure jazz gets much better, nor more rewarding on multiple listenings, than the album I hope you are now holding in your hands. Enjoy!