Keith Emerson reimagined for strings and more

    An unplugged tribute to the British progressive rock pioneer by eminent French arranger Thierry Eliez is reissued this month

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    Ceilin Poggi (left) and Thierry Eliez

    The third-stream potential in the work of British prog-rock luminary Keith Emerson is recalled this month with the reissue of Emerson Enigma, the 2021 album in which the French pianist, organist and composer Thierry Eliez – known for his work with Didier Lockwood, the Ceccarelli Trio, Dee Dee Bridgewater and as successor to Joe Zawinul in The Syndicate, 2008-16 – vividly reimagines Emerson’s compositions using strings and voice and weaving in elements of familiar classical pieces. The album is available this month on CD and vinyl with full global distribution.

    Eliez sets out to capture the essence of the original works, while stripping them of the electronic textures typical of the 1970s and subtly introducing strings, voices and extracts of other classical pieces, in order to create a recording that is as skilful as it is captivating. A chance meeting in Los Angeles between Emerson and Eliez ignited a friendship which led Eliez to carry out this intimate tribute.

    Helping him to achieve this are cello virtuoso Guillaume Latil, violinists Johan Renard and Khoa Nam Nguyen and viola player Vladimir Percevic. Completing the group is metamorphic vocalist and regular collaborator Ceilin Poggi, who (along with Eliez), navigates the surreal dimensions of Keith Emerson’s music with a dose of crazy, offbeat and even theatrical humour.

    From Knife Edge, Tarkus, The Endless Enigma and Pictures Of An Exhibition, the listener can move on to enjoy Janácek’s Sinfonietta and Bach’s Suite Française in D Minor. Later, excerpts of Mussorgsky intermingle with Emerson’s compositions.

    Eliez’s jazz associations, on stage and in the studio, are numerous and include Horace Silver, Jimmy Smith, Aretha Franklin, David Sanchez, James Moody, Toots Thielemans, Ron Carter, Gatto Pancieri, Pino Paladino, Terri Lynne Carrington, Gary Novak, Roy Hargrove and Jaco Pastorius. He also worked with composers Michel Legrand and Eric Serra, the latter describing him as “one of the greatest improvising pianists in the world”.

    Emerson Enigma offers the keys to the, lush, avant-garde world of Emerson as composer combined with Thierry Eliez’s unique brand of virtuosity, resulting in a singular recording of epic proportions.

    This article was prepared with the assistance of the promoter.