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Eldar Djangirov: Breakthrough

Dan Bilawsky By

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"Point Of View Redux"—the eight-minute-long opener on pianist Eldar Djangirov's Breakthrough—doesn't exactly say it all, but it says a hell of a lot. A firmly delivered flourish flies through the air in the opening seconds, a rollicking riff sets things in motion as titan-like technique powers the warp-speed explorations that follow, things take a bluesy turn for a spell, and Djangirov generates enough energy to power an entire city block along the way. This aptly-titled number serves as a musical manifesto-of-sorts, as Djangirov wears his likes on his sleeve—and in his hands; this album is, indeed, a breakthrough, but not a completely unexpected one.

As a very young pianist getting a lot of press, Djangirov was subject to the usual raves and criticism that accompany the arrival of a child prodigy. Many a writer found nice things to say about the technique that this promising pianist possessed, and a few people found fault in the fact that his technique was the dominant aspect of his artistry; twelve year olds, apparently, tend to be easy targets for those perched behind a desk. Now, at the ripe old age of twenty six, Djangirov has delivered something that may just get the majority of those betting against him early on to rethink things.

Breakthrough is a portrait of the artist as a young man, but this young man already knows who he is, what he wants to say, and how he plans on saying it. Djangirov can be direct and transparent in his musical delivery ("No Moon At All") or purposefully duplicitous ("Breakthrough"). He takes some classics at face value and twists others a bit to suit his viewpoint ("Somebody Loves Me"), but all of his decisions are ultimately made for the good of the performance(s).

This is a trio outing, and a fine one at that, but it doesn't always feel like a three man show. Djangirov's music can be incredibly busy and complex or simple and elegant. He uses breakaway piano episodes as opportunities to explore the solo piano realm within a trio context and he has no problem asking his trio mates to shift from background to foreground, depending on what the music calls for; they comply beautifully. Saxophonist Chris Potter and vibraphonist Joe Locke drop in on one number apiece, further adding to the feeling that this isn't a run-of-the-mill trio date. Potter works his magic on the knotty title track and Locke joins in on the heart-pounding "Blink."

Djangirov's passive-aggressive pianistic tendencies make Breakthrough into a tale of two personality traits. One minute he might be ruminating on a classic theme in contemplative fashion and the next minute he might be tearing through one of his tricky originals like a post-modern Chick Corea on uppers. This who-knows-which-Djangirov-you'll-get approach is at the heart of the brilliant Breakthrough.

Track Listing: Point Of View Redux; Somebody Loves Me; Breakthrough; What'll I Do; Morning Bell; In Pursuit; No Moon At All; Hope; Tokyo Pulse; Blink; Good Morning Heartache.

Personnel: Eldar Djangirov: piano; Armando Gola: bass; Ludwig Alfonso: drums; Chris Potter: tenor saxophone (3); Joe Locke: vibraphone (10).

Title: Breakthrough | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Motema Music


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