I Am a Stranger in This World
The trumpeter Ralph Alessi is appropriately ubiquitous – what would any heraldic music be without a horn after all. Mr Alessi’s is a majestic voice throughout. The guitarist Ben Monder seemingly has more playing time. And his long inventions arrive in to the music towering elliptical arcs, making for one exquisite harmonic variation after another.
One would have given an arm and a leg for more Christian Howes, a violinist of inimitable and prodigious gifts. Miss Eckemoff employs his special craft to light up the darkness of “I Am a Stranger in This World” and on the absolutely magical “Every Beast of the Field”, on the latter to hail the majesty of the Living God. Mr Howes returns the favour with the soft wail of his violin as if mimicking an aspergillum sprinkling hyssop which adds an awe-inspiring touch to both works.
A glance at the personnel should be be enough to indicate the quality of both thoughtful and exhilarating musicianship which distinguishes the music: throughout, there is a beautiful range of nuanced dynamics. Conspicuous here is Eckemoff’s desire to combine her penchant for freely cast and coloured melodic exposition and shape-shifting atmosphere… At least half of the 12 pages of photographs of the musicians which follow surely could have been exchanged for a helpful setting of the texts. But don’t let that put you off investigating what is perhaps Eckemoff’s most immediately attractive release to date.
The arrangements keep things moving at a dizzying, kinetic pace, offset by lyrical gorgeous moments of sterling grandeur. ..This one is a conceptual experiment that succeeds wildly by dint of its spiraling transcendence and interplay between these A-List musicians.
Until I heard pianist Yelena Eckemoff’s I Am a Stranger In This World, I never thought of the Book of Psalms as the Blues…Now it’s the only way I think of it.
Yelena has once again chosen an ideal selection of sidemen to support the thoughts that she had as she wrote each Psalm. The manner in which she changes the mood, alters the tempo and weaves through the very mysteries of her melodies always holds my attention in a tight grip. On this album I especially enjoyed the playing of Ralph Alessi. His playing is always right on the mark, and his ease at dipping into the Avant Garde is just fun, and I enjoy that each player has his own signature sound, but in whichever combination Yelena has them set up throughout the recording is their interplay feels completely natural.
…Her harmony-rich classical-swing jazz influenced compositions provide a kind of unwind for a rugged NYC ensemble, but it has an instant charm.
In her music, one can detect the richly harmonic and brooding music of the great Russian classical romantic composers as an influence. ..Yelena may be from Russia, but we claim her as one of our own here in the United States!
The melodies often reflect her classical training, the explorations are inventive (particularly those of Alessi), and the interplay between trumpet, guitar and piano often blurs the lines between solos and ensembles, composition and improvisation.
The composition and musicianship are first quality as always. The interplay is so natural! Yelena’s cd joins the great tradition of religious influence in Jazz, as in the works of Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams, and of course, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.
The music is beautifully spun while effectively incorporating classical expressions. While sandwiching developments and transcendental performances that will make you feel surprised, the album gently and generously wraps you in its embrace.
While the album’s title may seem hopeless, the spirit of the performances suggests that the 2020 sessions were cause for celebration, even if they felt restrained, when the musicians were able to reunite and create music together again.
In an illustrious band line-up, she and her colleagues translate the words of the Psalms into music. There is no pathos or piety here, but rather the variations from ragtime to free jazz to blues. Always good for a surprise.
On this double album, the immensely prolific pianist Yelena Eckemoff again presents settings of biblical psalms, which she deftly transposes into jazz and, this time, blues. And supported by an exquisite jazz band.., she succeeds in an interesting and touching way.
Her previous album “Nocturnal Animals” was also an exceptional work, and the latest album by Yelena Eckemoff, a pianist, composer, poet, and visual artist from Moscow, is a 2-CD set containing 11 songs. The title of this album is unique, but the cover, created by Yelena herself, is very special. ..The last track on disk 2, “Every Beast of The Field,” is a 19-minute epic with an interesting arrangement.
L&H / In-Acoustics 4 stars It’s hard to keep up with the output of American exiled Russian Yelena Eckemoff. Just last year, the pianist released a double album with Finnish musicians; her new album, again featuring only American musicians, is another double. Her eleven long compositions are inspired by biblical psalms, which can – for […]
As a conceptualist, composer, and pianist, Eckemoff seemingly knows no bounds.
Eckemoff drew not only from the melodies of hymns or gospels, but also from baroque and classical music, New Orleans jazz, Ellington, blues, free jazz and jazz-rock. I dare say that if the length of the songs were reduced, it would be one extraordinarily bloated disc, which would not let the listeners breathe for even a picosecond.
Rhapsodic waves, verging on opera, vibratory resonance, and instrumental multiplicity characterize I Am a Stranger in This World, connecting the mystical, enigmatic strangeness of Old Testament religion with down-to-earth familiarity, melded and forged into everyday music we might turn up on the radio or tune into at a symphony concert with friends. Trumpet and guitar take over a great many melodic landscapes — in broad, expansive swaths, while also hiding, tucked away in burgeoning compartments, waiting to fly out, messianic messages burying the lead, both cinematic in scope and ridiculously, jaw-droppingly diverse…classically elegant against rim-riot abstract — the essence of free jazz — over continually changing movements and tones, and starkly re-shifting styles.
Far away from sacred clichés, the music moves in the area of modern, largely composed jazz and shows a closeness to classical music. Thus, the interpretations created in 2016 and 2020 seem like hermaphrodites of chamber music and jazz…
The profound power conveyed to the listener by the sometimes fabulously luminous pieces gathered on the new album recorded during Pandemic 2020 is due not only to the tonally beautiful, strong compositions, but also to the respective interpretations of the pianist, who here for the first time on her jazz recordings makes Fender Rhodes sound as well as acoustic piano, and the highly motivated, creative team of fellow players. Last but not least, the album, mixed and mastered by Rich Breen, shines with its classy recording technique.
For every project, she gathers around herself a small number of musicians who then wholly share their artistry with her for two or three days. A community feel informs the music, as if to suggest a family of sorts formed during the brief time of the project’s creation. Always in charge, Eckemoff embroiders the performances with filigreed piano patterns and occasionally steps forth to solo; Alessi might be the MVP here, however, given how often his acrobatic horn leads the ensemble with authority (hear the dynamic turn he takes in “Make Haste to Help Me,” for example). The ever-imaginative Rogers is no slouch in the soloing department either, and Gress and Waits take to her music like ducks to water, the two solidly grounding the performances yet also playing freely in the space the compositions provide. She excels at structuring her writing so that each piece is branded with a distinctive character yet also allows ample room for the musicians to individually stamp themselves on the performance.
I have yet to hear an album by pianist/composer Yelena Eckemoff that hasn’t hit me right in my soul. She has created a catalogue of albums focusing on various themes, from times of the year to food. This time around, she re-visits her treatment of various Biblical Psalms and gives them instrumental interpretations to mix the mood of The Great Davidic Songbook.
The composer/leader’s piano sets an authoritative tone within which Ralph Alessi’s trumpet is no more or less prominent than the electric guitars of Adam Rogers and Ben Monder, so the resultant instrumental mesh imbues this work with a vigorous spontaneity.
Russian pianist Yelena Eckemoff finds herself immersed in the hyper-urban New York. In the company of a remarkable team of aces of US jazz, she revisits the orthodox psalms and it is magnificently close to the blues.
“I Am A Stranger In This World” continues the artistic search for a beautiful sound and new forms of expression to which Yelena Eckemoff has accustomed us for years. This time she takes the religious lyrics one step further, combining them with blues rhythms and phrasing to invite us on an intellectual adventure, tracing the logical narrative of the sounds. ..Her unique, sophisticated and expressive music continues to receive support and creative energy from the best musicians in the world.
Modern jazz, with improvisations and blues – this is what “I am a Stranger in This World” sounds like. It is interesting that for the first time Yelena Eckemoff decided to play not only the piano, so some of the tracks feature her keyboards and Fender Rhodes. Yelena Eckemoff’s albums are always a guarantee of high compositional and performance quality. And so it is this time, too. With “I am a Stranger in This World”, the artist has created a collection of melodic, appealing compositions. Structured – which I personally always see as an advantage – so that each musician can find a room for great individual solos, while not forgetting about the power of the collective: the band as a whole presents itself just as outstanding. One listens to this album and returns to it with great pleasure.
I have been following Yelena Eckemoff’s achievements for years and each of her albums is very important to me. I cannot get over the artist’s creativity and musical imagination, and it is worth mentioning that apart from composing and playing the piano, she is also a poet and painter. Nothing more to add, nothing more to say: “I Am a Stranger in This World” is another excellent album by Yelena Eckemoff that will stay with me forever.
The tunes are excellent…There is intensity and beauty in much of this music, and if one didn’t know the concept, the music would stand on its own solidly in the contemporary jazz groove. While the concept might be a major turnoff for some, this is fine jazz at both the spiritual and “secular” level. Highly recommended.
As always she is superb both in writing and improvisation and in the way she organizes the band, that is effortlessly able to move from a compositions inspired by sacred music to the blues. These extraordinary musicians appear to be animated by the desire to play during a rather dark period of time characterized by the lack of opportunities to perform.
Pianist, switched from classical to jazz when she moved to US in 1991. Pieces inspired by Biblical Psalms (this is identified as the “instrumental version”).
Pianist and composer Yelena Eckemoff honors us with her new creation, I am a stranger in This World. Of course, there is a strong classical influence, all twirling in a jazz wonderland that touches you directly. Yelena is surrounded, accompanied by marvelous musicians, whose pleasure we can feel in bringing all their talent to this work. ..So if you like beautiful compositions and warm interpretations, follow the recommendations of the editorial staff of Paris-Move and Bayou Blue Radio who classify this sumptuous album as “essential.”
Developing one’s own sound world could actually be described as one of the basic qualities of proper jazz. In this case, the sounds – also assisted by the Chagall-like cover art – make you think about dark deep traditions of Russian monasteries that somehow found its way to modern New York to challenge the stereotypes of the New York standard jazz sound. ..The pieces are rather characterized by interlocking melodies, which are closely related to improvisation and have a very atmospheric feel. “I am a Stranger in this World” is a charming, original and fresh contribution to contemporary jazz.
…Her settings for the Book of Psalms are spread out over two discs and it still seems like she has more to say on the subject. Lovely instrumental work that approaches the divine with a different set of ears, it might just make today’s average narcissist find a second or two to show some appreciation. If not, it’s a great listen anyway.