Yelena Eckemoff soars as she finds that magical harmonic sweet spot between jazz and classical music.
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
Yelena Eckemoff continues to strike fertile ground while moving away from the more traditional trio format to a quintet that maintains the impressionistic calling card that continues to draw critical acclaim from a global audience. The all star collective assembled includes Mark Turner, Joe Locke, George Mraz and Billy Hart. Compositions are from a brilliant color palette similar to the cover art which Eckemoff painted. A true collective that understands the melodic vision of Eckemoff without ever overshadowing the performance. Simplicity is the ultimate in sophistication and this is where A Touch of Radiance takes flight.
To find an improvisational niche without creating a lyrical disconnect is at times a daunting task given classical structure and traditional jazz freedom. The ambient mood of the opener "Inspiration" may best exemplify the strength of the presentation continued within this stunning release. There is a subtle if not conceptualized theme of beauty, nature, and tranquility that is built around finesse and a smoldering intensity of emotional freedom and childhood memories. Both "Reconciliation" and "Encouragement" are centered around the varying emotional ties that come with family. These emotions are much like the lyrical content, simple and honest yet with a stunning clarity that stays with the listener long after the final notes. There are compositions of changing tempo and meter but these are meticulously placed and add to the ebb and flow of a release that may be best described as pristine.
Yelena Eckemoff exponential growth as an artist is astounding. A Touch of Radiance could easily challenge as album of the year. Contributions from Turner, Locke, Mraz, and Hart simply serve to elevate Eckemoff's harmonic game and one can only hope this is not the last we have heard from this stellar quintet. The liner notes of the compact disc contain short poems from Yelena Eckemoff that are tied to each composition. A true Renaissance woman of improvisational music, a talent to be savored!
Tracks; Inspiration; Reminiscence; Exuberance; Affection; Pep; Imagination; Reconciliation; Tranquility; Encouragement; Radiance.
Personnel: Yelena Eckemoff: Piano, Compositions; Mark Turner: Tenor Saxophone; Joe Locke: Vibraphone; George Mraz: Double Bass; Billy Hart: Drums.