Eldar & Hiromi: Eldar & Brain
One of the questions provoked by prodigies is whether their music has an emotional resonance informed by life experience. In other words, does the prodigy have something to say yet?
Elsewhere in the jazz press, Kyrgyzstan native Eldar Djangirov has already been compared to Art Tatum. The whirlwind of notes unleashed on Eldar, his debut recording on Sony Classical, is far from a case of empty virtuosity, but neither does it convey a wholly original voice. Which is fine, reallyEldar is only 18, after all.
The album bursts out of the gate with "Sweet Georgia Brown taken at breakneck speed, as if to greet the listener saying, "the hype you have heard is true. The music comes up for a much-needed breath of air with the second track, Eden Ahbez's "Nature Boy, where Eldar shows he can lay back with both understated comping and sparse soloing. The original ballad "Lady Wicks is a fine composition, showing a classical music influence in its rolling left hand arpeggios.
Sometimes Eldar's virtuosity can lead to some misses, though, as in the cranked-up cover of "Maiden Voyage. It was his set-opener at Dizzy's Club on a sweltering June night and it stirred the small audience. But the manic reworking Djangirov gives Herbie Hancock's contemplative ballad fails to make a case for messing with the original.
The trio moved on to "Round Midnight (also on the album) and it exemplified Eldar's playing: incredible technique and amazing touch on the keyboard, but coming up short on a tune that can be a vehicle for lyricism.
Eldar's solo piano encore at Dizzy's was that most American of standards, "Take the A Train, and he took it all right, as if it were a crazy train careening along the express track. Sometimes, though, the A makes local stops.
25-year-old Japanese keyboardist Hiromi's Brain is a hyperactive child of an albuma mixed bag of electronic gadgetry, acoustic reflection, and smooth-funk snare drum backbeats.
The eight tracks on Brain are all composed by Hiromi. Some are attractive pieces, such as "Desert on the Moon, where she showcases both lyricism and exceptional technique. Others, like "Keytalk, with its Framptonesque talk box effects, miss by allowing an interest in electronic toys to trump the expression of worthwhile musical ideas.
At Iridium in June, Hiromi played a set that showed her music is more compelling live than on record. Although the bass and drums could be overpowering, if you sat nearer to Hiromi's piano, you heard evidence of an excellent young composer. "Green Tea Farm was a gorgeous solo piano piece showing an attractive harmonic palette. The trio also had a lot of fun with some bluesy pieces and soft songs that built to big, full-chorded climaxes.
Hiromi is still low-profile enough that you can meet her selling her CDs at the bar after the set. It may not last long.
Tracks: 1. Sweet Georgia Brown 2. Nature Boy 3. Moanin' 4. Point of View 5. Raindrops 6. Lady Wicks 7. Maiden Voyage 8. 'Round Midnight 9. Ask Me Now 10. Watermelon Island 11. Fly Me to the Moon
Personnel: Eldar Djangirov: piano and synthesizer; John Patitucci: bass; Todd Strait: drums; Michael Brecker: tenor sax on 4.
Tracks: 1. Kung-Fu World Champion 2. If... 3. Wind Song 4. Brain 5. Desert on the Moon 6. Green Tea Farm 7. Keytalk 8. Legend of the Purple Valley
Personnel: Hiromi Uehara: piano and synthesizers; Tony Grey: bass; Anthony Jackson: bass on 2,5,8; Martin Valihora: drums.