It's clear from note one here that Eri Yamamoto is staking out her own pianistic territory and it's a privilege to be able to monitor her progress on her artistic journey. Her take on free and near free territories is entirely her own, but what pervades this whole program is a deeply reflective, quasi-spiritual strain of lyricism, and the pianist's choice of duo partners has been judicious in and crucial to the realization of this.
If first impressions count for anything then the initial passage of the opening "Thank You" immediately connects with the ear. There's a kind of unassuming manner in Yamamoto's melodic sense, and drummer Federico Ughi establishes his own hold on the ear with his acute sense of light and shade.
Any diffidence there might be in Yamamoto's pianism is to the fore on the aptly titled "Conversation," where she engages in that very thing with Daniel Carter's alto sax. There's a pinched quality to Carter's sound which almost brings the soprano sax to mind but that's a trivial point in face of the music's realization. The two protagonists never get in each other's way, and that very fact reveals how the conversation is a meeting of minds.
Taken in the company of that benign force of nature that is bassist William Parker, "Subway Song" might almost be an amalgam of Thelonious Monk and Lennie Tristano. Yamamoto spins out Tristano-like lines complete with minor dissonances over Parker's walking bass, and whilst the piece hints at more traditional territory than is otherwise the case here the issues of personal identity and stamp are never in any doubt.
"Midtown Blues" finds Hamid Drake bringing his frame drum to the proceedings and a whole other kind of alchemy ensues. In the presence of his persuasive swing Yamamoto turns in some rhythmic clusters of her own and the duo in the moment manages to evoke simultaneous aspects of the tradition at the same time as they carve out territory of their own.
Personnel: Eri Yamamoto: piano; Federico Ughi: drums (1, 8) Daniel Carter: alto sax (2) tenor sax (5) William Parker: bass (3, 7) Hamid Drake: frame drum (4, 6)