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Articles | Featured | Future

ALBUM REVIEWS

Yelena Eckemoff / Manu Kache: Colors

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Pianist Yelena Eckemoff brings the top drummers into her recording sessions, whether it's Billy Hart on Lions (2014), or Peter Erskine on Glass Song (2012) and Desert (2015), or Jon Christensen for Everblue (2014)--all of these on her own L & H Production label. The year 2019 finds the prolific Eckemoff presenting her first duo album, Colors, a piano and drums affair with another topline partner sitting at the kit: Manu Katche, a distinctive drumming stylist and a ...

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Yelena Eckemoff: Better Than Gold and Silver

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Russian-born pianist/composer Yelena Eckemoff began setting verses from the Bible's Book of Psalms shortly after her conversion to Catholicism, even before her emigration to the United States. But she waited until she had considerable experience working with jazz musicians before attempting these jazz arrangements. The first disc in this double disc set presents settings with two vocalists, tenor Tomás Cruz and mezzo-soprano Kim Mayo, accompanied by a remarkable band: trumpeter Ralph Alessi, guitarist Ben Monder, violinist Christian Howes, bassist Drew ...

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Yelena Eckemoff: Desert

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Pianist/composer Yelena Eckemoff was born in Russia and in 2018 lives in North Carolina--neither location suggests a desert theme. But Eckemoff became fascinated by the Arabian Desert, producing not only music but also prose stories connecting the compositions to each other, as well as poetry and paintings (including the album's cover image). Her albums are usually organized around a theme. This one is unusual in having a musical style directly associated with it: so much of this program combines Arabic ...

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Yelena Eckemoff: Desert

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Pianist Yelena Eckemoff's backstory doesn't suggest the potential for a rise to the category of top level jazz pianist. But here she is, after emigrating to the U.S. from Russia with her husband--leaving her children (temporarily) and everything else (permanently) behind in 1991 to escape repression and to start a new life. Classically trained in her homeland, Eckemoff came to jazz relatively late. With persistence, talent, ambition, audacity and a seemingly unshakable optimism, she has navigated her way to the ...

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Yelena Eckemoff: In The Shadow Of A Cloud

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She may rarely perform live in this context, but Yelena Eckemoff has managed to build, over just seven years and a mammoth eleven releases--including her second release of 2017, In the Shadow of a Cloud--a loyal and growing following in the jazz world. It's all the more remarkable for a multi-talented expat Russian pianist who began life in the classical world, and only entered the jazz world in 2010 with Cold Sun. But there's even more to marvel ...

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Yelena Eckemoff: Blooming Tall Phlox

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You can look up the phlox flower online: there are 67 species, many of them fragrant. But none of the photographs or botanical classifications will tell you how it smells. For that we have pianist/composer Yelena Eckemoff's musical impressions here, along with a range of other smells recalled from her Russian childhood. When Eckemoff visited Finland and saw how much it reminded her of Russia she decided it was the best place to record an album about her Russian aroma ...

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Yelena Eckemoff: Blooming Tall Phlox

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While the art of playing jazz qualifies as a multisensory experience, involving listening, touching, and seeing, it usually doesn't extend so far as to include the sense of smell. But that's not to say that a nose for scents has no place in musical and artistic spheres. If you need convincing, just look at Blooming Tall Phlox. For her tenth album in six years, pianist Yelena Eckemoff uses life and nature's bouquets as her muse. Her memory ...

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Yelena Eckemoff Quartet: Leaving Everything Behind

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Pianist/composer Yelena Eckemoff has restlessly explored a new theme with each new album, with a shifting group of musicians. The central event behind the album title Leaving Everything Behind was her departure from the Soviet Union in 1991. She and her husband came to the United States to start a new life, having literally left everything behind--even their children, left indefinitely with Eckemoff's parents until the couple could get established. To explore this theme she returned to older original material, ...

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Yelena Eckemoff Quartet: Leaving Everything Behind

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With all of the worldwide hue and cry concerning immigration, precious little is said about the lives of immigrants themselves, the sacrifices they've made and the risks they've taken in order to start their lives anew; free of whatever hardships and oppression they endured in their native country. In the news, entire lives are boiled down to reports of another capsized boat in the Mediterranean, or another truckload of hopeful souls stopped at the border. Even those who immigrate legally ...

CATCHING UP WITH

Yelena Eckemoff: Growing Into Jazz

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Pianist/composer Yelena Eckemoff goes her own way. Since the 2010 release of Cold Sun on her own L&H Production label, she has produced a series of jazz recordings, all presenting original music, with an impressive array of renowned contemporary musicians. Our conversation mainly dealt with her recording career: making connections with other musicians, composing, and working in the studio as performer and producer. All About Jazz: When All About Jazz ran a Take Five article on you back ...

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Yelena Eckemoff Quartet: Everblue

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In a quick follow-up to her masterful two CD set Lions, Russian-born and now North Carolina-based pianist Yelena Eckemoff offers up Everblue, the most “ECM Records-sounding" set not on that deservedly esteemed label. It is, rather, released on her own L&H Productions. The names of the sidemen on the date explain in part the ECM-like sound: saxophonist Tore Brunborg, bassist Arild Andersen, and drummer Jon Christensen, the Norwegian contingent, are all long time ECM Records artists, as leaders ...

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Yelena Eckemoff Trio: Lions

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Yelena Eckemoff has a lot to say artistically. The Russian-born, classically-trained pianist--now home-based in North Carolina--has released eight jazz albums in the past nine years, sets that are packed to the digital rafters with close to the time limit for the CD format--in the 70-plus minute range. For Lions, the ideas spilled over onto two CDs, a ninety-four minutes of music that is--according to the set's drummer, Billy Hart--prophetic. Eckemoff has a way of working with themes, with ...