Yelena Eckemoff: Colors (L&H)

A review of the pianist's duo album with Manu Katché

Colors by Yelena Eckemoff
The cover of Colors by Yelena Eckemoff

Yelena Eckemoff is no synesthete, yet she’s long conjured the sound of colors through the piano’s keys. In this duo encounter with style-spanning drumming Manu Katché, she explores the titular topic with the most marked of intentions.

Eckemoff traces the various stages of human life and growth in various tints and tones. The album opens with “White,” a radiant yet fragile take on tabula rasa. “Black,” not surprisingly, sits at the other end of the journey. It’s weightier, with greater wisdom and experience to be found in its poetry. But purely bleak it’s not. Clearly, death isn’t the definite end in this darkest of dimensions.

Exploring another 12 shades of being between those poles, Eckemoff and Katché prove both sympathetic and suggestive in their union. Whether channeling childhood through the rocking “Orange,” playing on young love’s mystery and beauty in the blooming “Violet,” or daydreaming and worrying about new life’s arrival on “Blue,” this duo manages to create a fine mixture of calculation and impulse. Eckemoff’s emotional arcs prove unpredictable in the most positive of ways and, with Katché’s cymbals and skin tones accompanying her, even the most simple and serene notions play as something more significant.

Despite having already showcased her classically informed, ECM-influenced aesthetic on more than a dozen albums in the past decade, seeing to everything from accompanying artwork and poetry to composing and contracting, Eckemoff shows no signs of slowing down. The music continues to flow, and her well clearly runs deep.

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