Yelena Eckemoff: Adventures Of The Wildflower

The pianist offers an impressionistic, sometimes swinging tone-poem about the life of a columbine wildflower

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Following her excellent Nocturnal Animals with Arild Andersen (b) and drummers Thomas Strønen and Jon Christensen, Eckemoff’s Adventures Of The Wildflowers continues the good news, albeit in music of distinctly different instrumentation, voicings and dynamics.

As with a good few of the previous releases from this classically trained but jazz-fired polymath, the programme is augmented by a generous complement of well-packaged visual images and poetic reflections (in prose format this time) from Eckemoff, evincing the animistic spirituality which informs this soulful, now gently impressionistic, now vibrantly turned musical tone-poem about the life of a columbine wildflower.

There are a couple of useful online items about this project where Eckemoff underlines her goal of shaping compositions which leave essential room for contributions from all participants. Programmed well and beautifully recorded, the two-CD set sees the return of most of the notable Finnish musicians with whom Eckemoff worked on her Blooming Tall Phlox of 2017: the subtly attuned interplay of Savolainen, Lötjönen and Louhiuori dovetails beautifully with the contributions of the leader herself, Saari and Perko.

While one might regret the absence of Verneri Pohjola (t, flh) – who appeared on Phlox – Saari and Perko join Savolainen in bringing many an affecting figure to music which, for me, often recalled and set in fresh register the delicious suspended or floating quality which distinguished much of Eckemoff’s 2011 Forget-Me-Not with Mats Eilertsen (b) and Marilyn Mazur (d, pc) as well as her 2014 A Touch Of Radiance with Mark Turner (ts), Joe Locke (vib), George Mraz (b) and Billy Hart (d).

Atmospheric touches of glass harp and theremine from Saari – who chiefly contributes tasty, rhythmically and sonically diverse guitar – are never overdone. And if there are various passages of rubato reflection and chromatic eeriness (sample Germination, Dying and Another Winter) there is also, as always with Eckemoff, plenty of crystal-cut melody as well as much cohesively thought through rhythmic momentum and variety, as elegant as it is potent.

Overall, Adventures Of The Wildflower serves to underline the breadth and depth of Eckemoff’s reverie-rich sensibilities, her unerringly organic, even shape-shifting sense of now fluid, now cleanly delineated motivic form and dynamics. I was especially pleased to hear Jukka Perko in music of such exquisitely rendered group interaction and adroitly pitched individual voice. A musician of wide and distinctive capacity, he has a CV ranging from the tango-fed The Music Of Olavi Virta to the haunting strings-enhanced Land Of Canaan: Northern Hymns and the recent Dizzy, a tribute to the bebop master in whose band he once worked.

Here, Perko joins the equally excellent Saari and Savolainen in contributing consistently apt and inventive lines and colour to Eckemoff’s poetic vision, moving effortlessly from, e.g., the finger-clicking swing of Dog Chasing A Mouse to the ostinato pulse and teasing, free-touched cross-accents of Chickens (where Louhiuori is in typically crisp, intelligent and enlivening form). Music to make one feel and wonder, think and dream – and smile.

Discography
CD1: In The Ground; Germination; Weeding The Garden; Dog Chasing A Mouse; Rain; Home By The Fence; Chickens; Drought; Thundershower (60.38)
CD2: Winter Slumber; Waking Up In Spring; Buds And Flowers; Butterflies; Hummingbirds; Children Playing With Seed Pods; Dying; Another Winter; Baby Columbines (61.27)

Eckemoff (p); Jarmo Saari (elg, theremin, glasshp); Jukka Perko (ss, ts); Panu Savolainen (vib); Antti Lötjönen (b); Olavi Louhiuori (d, pc). Helsinki, 5-7 August 2019.
L & H cd806151-31