Yelena Eckemoff: I Am A Stranger In This World

Biblically inspired Russian pianist mixes shape-shifting atmosphere with, in the shape of blues and swing, archetypal jazz poetics


I Am A Stranger In This World continues the engagement with biblical psalms which marked the Russian-born but American-domiciled pianist and polymath Eckemoff’s Better Than Gold Or Silver of 2016, but drops the vocals which appeared on disc one of that two-CD set.

Several tracks of Stranger In This World offer further material from the 2016 sessions which furnished the second, all-instrumental disc of Better Than Gold Or Silver. They sit well within the overall flowing whole that is Stranger In This World.

A glance at the personnel should be be enough to indicate the quality of both thoughtful and exhilarating musicianship which distinguishes the music: throughout, there is a beautiful range of nuanced dynamics. Conspicuous here is Eckemoff’s desire to combine her penchant for freely cast and coloured melodic exposition and shape-shifting atmosphere, epitomised by Keep Not Your Silence and At Midnight I Shall Rise, with archetypal jazz poetics: witness the delicious (and varied) blues-sprung ambience of, e.g., Lighten My Eyes and I Shall Not Want or the lightly inflected and affirmative swing of As Chaff Before The Wind and Make Haste To Help Me.

Mark Sullivan’s sleeve-note offers informative insight into the project. But there are no quotations from the various psalms which inspired Eckemoff, rather a list of their numbers and the verses within them which precipitated the particular nature of the compositions. At least half of the 12 pages of photographs of the musicians which follow surely could have been exchanged for a helpful setting of the texts. But don’t let that put you off investigating what is perhaps Eckemoff’s most immediately attractive release to date.

CD1: (1) As Chaff Before The Wind; Lighten My Eyes; Make Haste to Help Me; (2) I Am A Stranger In This World; (1) Truth In His Heart; (3) Like Rain Upon The Mown Grass (59.16)
CD2: (1) Keep Not Your Silence; The Wine Of Astonishment; I Shall Not Want; At Midnight I Will Rise; (4) Every Beast Of The Field (61.55)

Eckemoff (p, elp, kyb) with: (1) Ralph Alessi (t); Adam Rogers (elg); Drew Gress (b, elb); Nasheet Waits (d). (2) Christian Howes (vn); Ben Monder (elg); Drew Gress (b, elb); Joey Baron (d). (3) as (2) plus Alessi (t). (4) as (3) plus Rogers (elg). New York, 15-16 August 2016 & 18-19 December 2020.
L & H cd 806151-33