Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Pianist Yelena Eckemoff Reaches New Heights Working with Norwegian Dream Team of Arild Andersen, Jon Christensen, and Tore Brunborg on Everblue

When pianist Yelena Eckemoff released Cold Sun (L & H Production, 2010) - a trio date with drumming legend Peter Erskine and Danish bass whiz Mads Vinding - the jazz world was introduced to a startlingly fresh voice destined for great things.  Over the course of the six albums that followed, Eckemoff lived up to that promise, delivering organically crafted music reflective of her classical background, fascination with the natural world, poetic soul, communicative spirit, and overall open-mindedness.  Now, Eckemoff is poised to make even more waves with the spellbinding Everblue, her third in-studio encounter with Norwegian bass icon Arild Andersen and her first musical meeting with two other Norwegians of note - drummer Jon Christensen and saxophonist Tore Brunborg. 

Those familiar with the background of Eckemoff's musical partners will likely be aware of their shared history, as Andersen and Christensen were both key players in Jan Garbarek's groundbreaking musical odysseys in the early '70s and all three men were involved in the band called Masqualero.  But none of that has to do with Eckemoff's motives for joining forces with this Norwegian dream team.  Instead, she simply notes that she chose to work with these musicians because they "would be the best match to interpret the ideas for the Everblue project." 

The musical affinity that exists between Eckemoff and Andersen is already abundantly clear, having been demonstrated on two beautifully rendered trio outings-Glass Song (L & H Production, 2013), with Peter Erskine on drums, and Lions (L & H Production, 2015), with Billy Hart on drums. On Everblue, their rapport is deepened and broadened, as both players seem to resonate sympathetically throughout.  While Eckemoff has worked with a number of fine bassists in the past, including Vinding and George Mraz, her relationship with Andersen helps to take her work to another level; it's a relationship that, she notes, plays out like "an interactive conversation." 

In summing up her reasoning for choosing to bring Christensen and Brunborg into her musical orbit on Everblue, Eckemoff cites both players' elemental qualities:  she likens Christensen to "an ocean" and she views Brunborg as "the voice of nature: animals, birds, winds, and ghosts."  When merged with her own "wondering and contemplative spirit" and Andersen's deeply resonating bass work-"a bridge between all of us," according to the architect herself-the results are mesmerizing.

With Everblue, Eckemoff doesn't simply present a set of tunes: she presents an overarching musical concept that guides this voyage.  "Part of our human consciousness constantly searches and yearns for the divine, unspeakably beautiful, eternal," she notes.  "In my world, I call this place Everblue."  It's a concept and a world that's plainly laid out in her poetry and music, as everything is drawn around beaches and oceans.   And it's a concept within that concept-the search for beauty-that informs this journey of faith and discovery.


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