Title: Russian emigre Yelena Eckemoff makes her masterpiece.
I Am A Stranger In This World says keyboardist-composer Yelena Eckemoff on her L&H Productions label. This epic double-disc with trumpeter Ralph Alessi, guitarists Adam Rogers/Ben Monder, violinist Christian Howes, bassist Drew Gress and drummers Nasheet Waits/Joey Baron is subtitled “Original Settings Of Biblical Psalms, Instrumental Version.” But you don’t have to be a believer to love her jams. The arrangements keep things moving at a dizzying, kinetic pace, offset by lyrical gorgeous moments of sterling grandeur. Yelena defied the Russian government with her spiritual side when to be a churchgoer was to be committing a dangerous transgression against the state. Her burgeoning creativity couldn’t fathom such an environment so after completing her pedigree in classical and jazz piano, she left her native Moscow—influenced by a famous 1987 performance in which she thrilled to Dave Brubeck—to end up in 1991 North Carolina. She’s been putting out great jazz records ever since. (Check out her 2018 Better Than Gold and Silver.) This one is a conceptual experiment that succeeds wildly by dint of its spiraling transcendence and interplay between these A-List musicians.