Yelena’s Nocturnal Animals: After a half dozen listens the first disc has all gelled together in my head and how beautiful it is, I cannot count the ways. As per an earlier observation, it’s almost impossible, particularly with Yelena’s piano to tell what is composed and what is improvised which says a huge amount about the quality of both the composition and the improvisation.
A while back I made a comment, based on first hearing of a single track that I thought she reminded me of Thelonious Monk. Very quickly, hearing more of her work i realised that if anything her sound is about as opposite to Monk as you could get. It’s since occurred to me that the ‘jazz’ pianist she most reminds me of is Jack Loussier, of whom i am a big fan. That is of course not to say that her compositions bare obvious imprints of Bach. No doubt Bach has figured heavily in her education, but compositionally any influence has been fully sublimated. This in itself is a compliment to her individuality. I am talking rather in pianistic terms, of her sound. Of the weight, attack, aftertouch, shimmer and sparkle that is the hallmark of a more European formal training. Despite having made her home in America her music is distinctively European, and her jazz language is the more European kind that began with players like Loussier, and Legrand, and blossoming into what today is most exemplified by ECM and the Oslo sound/scene. Less focussed in the Blues, relating to the Blues when at all ironically more than instinctively.