All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Catching Up With

344

Yelena Eckemoff: Growing Into Jazz

Mark Sullivan By

Sign in to view read count
...my approach to the bigger group of instruments is the same as to a trio. I care the same that all the instruments would have an equal chance to come through with an interesting story to tell.
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 in 2010, your current album was Flying Steps. You have made several since then. And one of the things I wanted to ask you about: on the current record and a couple others, you have the great Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen playing with you. I was wondering how that connection was made.

Yelena Eckemoff: To answer this question I probably need to tell a bit of my back story.

When we came to live in America, MIDI technology was blooming, and I could not pass up the opportunity to give it a try and assembled myself a cool set-up with a Kurzweil K-2000, PC-88, etc. For over ten years I experimented with sequencing and working solo. I even started to release CDs both in acoustic piano and in electronic music. Then I felt that I truly missed the interaction with other musicians. So I enlisted a drummer, cellist, and flutist here in North Carolina, and we recorded Call in 2006. Then we got a bassist and a reed player, and I continued rehearsing and playing gigs with this ensemble. But yet something was missing. I had good and dedicated musicians, but they did not specifically come from the world of jazz, and I felt I needed help to go in that direction. Around the same time I also started to listen to CDs released by the ECM label. Strangely, I never heard about ECM before. I saw that the ECM approach was much closer than any other music I've ever heard to what I myself was doing throughout my entire life. I remember, I could truly relate to Bobo Stenson, Arild Andersen, Tomasz Stanko, John Abercrombie, Annette Peacock, and John Taylor.

So I bravely approached Arild Andersen via email, offering him to work together—I think it was in 2008. He kindly asked me to send him some music. I did. He listened and said it was nice, but too complicated (laughs). He said he was too busy recording and touring, thus he declined at that point. But interestingly we stayed in touch. So an idea of us working together did not die out.

In the following couple of years I worked with some great musicians: bassists Mads Vinding, Darek Oleszkiewicz, and Mats Eilertsen, and drummers Peter Erskine, Morten Lund, and Marilyn Mazur. I released three trio CDs in 2010 (my personal record!) and one in 2012. I felt I was evolving rapidly—as I still am—and I was getting deeper and deeper into jazz as a genre. Some of material I had composed at that time was right in the same vein Arild was working in. So I offered him that material. He liked it so we recorded Glass Song in 2012 in L.A., with Peter Erskine.

AAJ: Looking over your discography, you've done a lot of trio recordings, but there have been a couple with a slightly larger group, including the current one, Everblue. How different is the approach when you've got additional horns or other instruments beyond the trio?

YE: I had from four to six people in my local band. But when I started to work with world-class jazz musicians I intentionally limited myself to trio. I felt it was a simpler and—honestly—safer approach for me at that time, since I was still growing into jazz. I was very much intrigued with the expressive possibilities of the trio, because of the transparency and intimacy of the setting. Trio was a learning ground for me to experience the interplay and conversation between the instruments, rather than playing a leader with a support section. I learned to write musical arrangements in such a manner that each instrument would be an equal part of a bigger whole without dominating over others.

For a while I felt the trio was a sufficient format for me. Then, after recording five trio CDs, I felt I was ready for a bigger sound. Later the same year after Glass Song I recorded a quartet with flugelhorn in Denmark. Then in 2013, a few months after recording another trio with Arild (the double album Lions), I recorded a quintet with vibraphone and trumpet in Finland; but these two albums (along with another trio with Mads Vinding) have not been released yet.

So, summarizing an answer to your question, I should say that my approach to the bigger group of instruments is the same as to a trio. I care the same that all the instruments would have an equal chance to come through with an interesting story to tell.

Officially my first released quintet is A Touch of Radiance (2014) and first released quartet is Everblue (2015). And I continue to work in quartet settings. I have just recorded another quartet in September of this year and I am recording yet another quartet in December. I guess no more trios on the horizon (laughs).

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Desert

Desert

L & H Production
2018

buy
Better Than Gold and Silver

Better Than Gold and...

L&H Production
2018

buy
Blooming Tall Phlox

Blooming Tall Phlox

L & H Production
2017

buy
Blooming Tall Phlox

Blooming Tall Phlox

L & H Production
2017

buy
In The Shadow Of A Cloud

In The Shadow Of A...

L & H Production
2017

buy
Leaving Everything Behind

Leaving Everything...

L & H Production
2016

buy

Related Articles

Read Devon Allman: Chipotle Blues Catching Up With
Devon Allman: Chipotle Blues
by Scott Mitchell
Published: November 4, 2018
Read Bobby Broom: Classic Compositions from Yesterday to Today Catching Up With
Bobby Broom: Classic Compositions from Yesterday to Today
by Corey Hall
Published: October 26, 2018
Read Stefon Harris: The Tradition of Jazz Catching Up With
Stefon Harris: The Tradition of Jazz
by Kevin Press
Published: October 16, 2018
Read Mike Stern: Living through a Jazz Clinic Catching Up With
Mike Stern: Living through a Jazz Clinic
by Rob Wood
Published: October 5, 2018
Read Onaje Allan Gumbs: Dare To Dream Catching Up With
Onaje Allan Gumbs: Dare To Dream
by La-Faithia White
Published: September 23, 2018
Read Gordon Au: Untraditionally Mad About Trad Catching Up With
Gordon Au: Untraditionally Mad About Trad
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: September 21, 2018
Read "Gideon King: Street Jazz" Catching Up With Gideon King: Street Jazz
by Paul Naser
Published: July 11, 2018
Read "Stu Mindeman and trio explore a Chick Corea classic at the Chicago Jazz Festival" Catching Up With Stu Mindeman and trio explore a Chick Corea classic at the...
by Corey Hall
Published: August 21, 2018
Read "Gilad Hekselman: New music on the Horizon" Catching Up With Gilad Hekselman: New music on the Horizon
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: March 6, 2018
Read "Adam Nussbaum: Back To Basics" Catching Up With Adam Nussbaum: Back To Basics
by Ludovico Granvassu
Published: April 5, 2018
Read "Elio Villafranca: Five Islands & A Revolt" Catching Up With Elio Villafranca: Five Islands & A Revolt
by John Ephland
Published: July 21, 2018
Read "Helen Sung: Celebrating Monk" Catching Up With Helen Sung: Celebrating Monk
by Jim Trageser
Published: April 3, 2018