296

Yelena Eckemoff: A Touch of Radiance

Tyran Grillo By

Sign in to view read count
Yelena Eckemoff: A Touch of Radiance It's fulfilling to hear an artist evolve. In this regard, Yelena Eckemoff has heeded callings definable only by the language of the spirit. The Russian-born pianist and composer comes from a rigorous classical background, and within those parameters has shaped a quiet yet assured corpus of jazz albums stretching back to 2006's The Call. Since then she has assembled numerous ad hoc bands, caressing ebonies and ivories alongside Arild Andersen, Marilyn Mazur, Peter Erskine, and many other established names in the field. On A Touch of Radiance she finds herself in the supernal company of tenorist Mark Turner, vibraphonist Joe Locke, bassist George Mraz, and drummer Billy Hart. As the self-styled Yelena Eckemoff Quintet, they forge an astonishingly delicate soundscape.

Recorded at New York's legendary Avatar Studios and averaging seven minutes each, the album's ten originals show Eckemoff to be a democratic catalyst. Her atmospheres possess integrity, not least of all for their intimation. As such, titles like "Reminiscence" and "Exuberance" are no mere descriptors, but reflections of more complex emotional states. (True to form, Eckemoff provides a poem in the CD booklet for each respective track.) "Affection," for one, is not as dulcet as one might expect, but ruminates in shadows, chromatic dissonances, and treats memory not as a canvas but as underdeveloped film. Turner brings a river's flow to this unusual tune, contrasting with Locke's brighter energies. "Pep," for another, sparks even more idiosyncratic flames. These flicker through Eckemoff's playing, which here achieves gnarled brilliance. Turner emotes in striations, not pillars, and again shares lovely crosstalk with Locke's mallets.

None of which is to say there aren't any overtly programmatic moments. Tracks such as "Reminiscence," "Exuberance," and "Radiance" are exactly what they purport to be. The first of these is notable for Hart's pastel monologue, the second for Mraz's foundry, and the third for Eckemoff's raindrop pianism, sparkling and free. And all of them are shuttled through a loom of childhood memory and innocent wanderings through pastures to which one becomes blind in adulthood.

Other tunes float somewhere in between, achieving deepest insight in the album's zenith, "Reconciliation." Not only is it Eckemoff's finest studio achievement, but its dovetailing of melody, mood, and magic draws her collaborators into some inspired being. Turner in particular gives the breadth of his abilities to small worlds through effortless unpacking, making of them universes unto themselves.

Of the bandleader's own playing we are treated to tasteful selections in the set's most somber turns. In the melting snow of "Imagination" and more impressionistic "Tranquility," her touch remains gentle and unobtrusive, forever invested in the beauty of the everyday. As in the album's opener, "Inspiration," she finds greatest happiness in exactly that.

Whether occupying foreground or background, she is the gentle adhesive that sticks every finished photo into the emerging diary. For that's exactly what this album feels like: a familiar volume to the clasp of which each musician adds ornament, able to be unlocked only by a listener's curiosity.

Track Listing: Inspiration; Reminiscence; Exuberance; Affection; Pep; Imagination; Reconciliation; Tranquility; Encouragement; Radiance.

Personnel: Yelena Eckemoff, piano; Mark Turner, tenor saxophone; Joe Locke, vibraphone; George Mraz, bass; Billy Hart, drums.

Title: A Touch of Radiance | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Self Produced


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read BACHanalia CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Hallways CD/LP/Track Review Hallways
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 24, 2017
Read The Crave CD/LP/Track Review The Crave
by John Sharpe
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Chase The Light (Excursions in Soul, Reggae, Funk, and Dub) CD/LP/Track Review Chase The Light (Excursions in Soul, Reggae, Funk, and Dub)
by Joe Gatto
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Kickin' Child - The Lost Album 1965 CD/LP/Track Review Kickin' Child - The Lost Album 1965
by Doug Collette
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Towards Language CD/LP/Track Review Towards Language
by John Eyles
Published: June 23, 2017
Read "The Long Good Friday OST" CD/LP/Track Review The Long Good Friday OST
by Roger Farbey
Published: July 1, 2016
Read "The Soul Jazz Beat Vol. 2" CD/LP/Track Review The Soul Jazz Beat Vol. 2
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: July 20, 2016
Read "Vanheusenism: A Tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen" CD/LP/Track Review Vanheusenism: A Tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 2, 2016
Read "2468 West Grand Boulevard" CD/LP/Track Review 2468 West Grand Boulevard
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: December 27, 2016
Read "In Times Like These" CD/LP/Track Review In Times Like These
by James Nadal
Published: May 13, 2017
Read "Illustrations" CD/LP/Track Review Illustrations
by Dave Wayne
Published: September 7, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.