The last time composer/pianist Yelena Eckemoff recorded in Finland she led a quintet on Blooming Tall Phlox (L&H Production, 2017). The program was devoted to smells, particularly the phlox flower and other scents remembered from childhood. Here she returns to Finland with a sextet (including several returning players, basically the entire rhythm section) and a related concept: the life cycle of a wildflower. The mood of the music is well captured in the smiling band photo on the back of the CD. There is a lightness here that has been rare on recent recordings like Nocturnal Animals (L&H Production, 2020) and Better Than Gold And Silver (L&H Production, 2018)an unsurprising side effect of the austere instrumentation of the first and the heavy theme of the second.
"In the Ground" opens the set with new recruit Jarmo Saari's haunting theremin melody; he also contributes a lovely over driven guitar solo, leading into Panu Savolainen's vibraphone solo. "Dog Chasing a Mouse" introduces the other new player, saxophonist Jukka Perko, whose swinging soprano saxophone moves between playing Eckemoff's composed lines and improvising his own. Perko's role is a bit less prominent than would usually be expected in an ensemble like this. In fact most of the tracks are quintets rather than sextets. On "Home By The Fence" the saxophone's role is restricted to a few naturalistic sound effects; and "Chickens" finds guitar and saxophone sharing the solo role, with the vibraphone sitting out. It includes a section with a rare foray into what sounds like very free playing.
"Drought" ends with an atmospheric section that is reminiscent of early Weather Report. But "Winter Slumber" opens with a distinctive acoustic sound, in the form of Saari's glass harp. His volume-swells lead into a lyrical piano solo, followed by a vibraphone solo, guitar solo and double bass soloa lovely showcase for most of the rhythm section. "Warming Up in the Spring" returns the focus to soprano saxophone, along with guitar. "Hummingbirds" returns to a guitar/vibraphone texture, while "Children Playing With Seed Pods" is contrapuntal in an almost Baroque fashion. Closer "Baby Columbine" returns to the eerie theremin voice of the opener, and uses the entire sextet to bring the wildflower life cycle to a triumphant conclusion.
CD1: In the Ground; Germination; Weeding The Garden; Dog Chasing A Mouse; Rain; Home By The Fence;
Chickens; Drought; Thundershower. CD2: Winter Slumber; Waking Up In the Spring; Buds And Flowers;
Butterflies; Hummingbirds; Children Playing With Seed Pods; Dying; Another Winter; Baby Columbines.
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