5.0 out of 5 stars

Title: Beautiful clouds, beautiful shadows

3 November 2019. Format: MP3 Download

Yelena Eckemoff has been one of my most exciting jazz discoveries of the past few years. She is an example of of the more thoroughly compsosed jazz that can come with a classically trained background. Her music is ‘classical’, i.e. notated music that just happens to be played by jazz musicians, i.e. musicians that like to play just a little behind the beat to give a more informal feel than notation itself can reasonably convey. Her compositions are very detailed often featuring quite startling contrapuntal interactions between instrumental lines. Even the solos tend to be played over more rigorously worked out themes than the typical set of repeating chord changes that characterises most jazz improvisation.

The sound world of this particular album/line-up is quite close to that of the Kenny Wheeler of say Angel Song or Widow in the Window, but drawing from a broader palette of moods than Kenny’s rather morose, if beautiful, centre of gravity. This is not so surprising as Kenny was another example of a jazz musician for whom the craft of composition was as important, if not more so, than improvising chops. Also, Yelena’s own approach as a pianist is very remeniscent of John Taylor; relatively sparse but harmonically deep enough to act as a container for everything else that might be going on.

As with most of her albums the package includes Yelena’s rather accomplished artwork and brief prose poems to accompany each track often portraying scenes from her life when growing up as a little girl in rural Russia; something she manages to to make sound idyllic and magical. Despite this, the music sounds neither particularly Russian as we Westerners might stereotypically imagine it, or even American, her present homeland. In fact her music is both timeless and placeless and musicians from all over the world seem to be queing up for a chance to work with her. Some quite notable (as jazz musicians go).

On this album horn is covered by Chris Potter, a musician i was initially reluctant to engage with associating him as i did with Pat Metheny’s retreat into a more parochially White American idiom with his Unity Band (not really Potter’s fault). As a result of listening to this i’ve gone back to Potter’s recent ‘Circuits’ album with a more appreciative ear. Adam Rogers is a guitarist of the John Abercrombie school deepening further the association with Kenny Wheeler. All Yelena’s albums are beautifully recorded and present a wealth of sonic detail for the attentive ear.