Pianist Yelena Eckemoff was born in Russia and was classically trained. She came to the United States in the 1990s with her husband, and since then has developed a highly acclaimed jazz style that incorporates her classical technique and influences very effectively. This new two-CD release is a fascinating exploration of sense of smell and other nature-related ideas. Eckemoff’s band -a quartet of young Finnish musicians – are totally in sync with the concepts here. Trumpeter Verneri Pohjola and vibraphonist Panu Savolainen are particularly notable. The music is mainly gentle and meditative while remaining nicely rhythmic, with depth and subtlety behind an immediate emotional response. The discs are given seasonal divisions – one “Summer Smells” and the other “Winter Smells.” Both Eckemoff and her lesser-known Finnish colleagues are impressive here. Concept albums can seem forced or too cute at times, but this one works at every level. Often simply beautiful and always engaging, this is a winner.


Keith Black for Winnipeg Free Press