****RINGER OF THE WEEK****THE TREASURY OF DAVID…Yelena Eckemoff: Better Than Gold and Silver

Pianist and composer Yelena Eckemoff has built up an impressive and wide ranging catalogue, and this is not the first time one of her albums has gotten my ROTW award. This two disc set is particularly ambitious, as it has her delving into one of the oldest “Songbooks” around, that of King David.

The two disc set has Eckemoff and her strong team of Ralph Alessi/tp, Ben Monder/g, Christian Howes/vi, Drew Gress/b and Joey Baron/dr giving interpretations of Psalms 119, 131, 126, 58 and 147. One disc has the
voices of Tomas Cruz/ten and Kim Mayo/sop interpreting the lyrics, while the other one is strictly instrumental, with the length of each song increasing in time without voice.

The results are highly successful in either environment, as Cruz is earnest on the elegiac “Psalm 131,” warm with Alessi on “Psalm 119 Jod” and bluesy teaming with Gress during “Psalm 147.” The two sing out sublimely together on “Psalm 119 Lamed” (there are, after all 22 divisions of the long Psalm), and Mayo delves into some dark harmonies with Eckemoff on “Psalm 58.”

On the instrumental side, while there are no harps a la the original composer, Eckemoff and company create a soft foundation for Alessi on “Psalm 131” and Howe is glowingly warm during “Psalm 119 Nun.” Baron and Gress team up with Eckemoff to create ripples along the River Jordan on “Psalm 119 Teth” with Alessi doing a West Coast of the Jordan Cool read of “Psalm 119 Jod.” The team stretches out with a gentle cadence on “Psalm 147” with the leader’s piano creating a balm in Gilead along with Monder and Howes’s strings. This is a joy on a plethora of levels, serving heart, soul and ears.