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Virtue by Eldar

At only age 22, this is pianist Eldar’s fourth album release. Born in Kyrgyzstan, he now lives in New York. Reaching success early as a teenager, his improvisational skill and bombastic technique wowed crowds.

In live appearances and on earlier recordings, he would take a jazz standard, turn it inside out and, ingeniously return to the melodic hook. Working his magic, he took songs such as Cole Porter’s "What Is This Thing Called Love" and Oscar Peterson’s "Place St. Henri" and breathed new life in them.

In this new CD, Eldar’s amazing technique is certainly on display, but this time out he goes strictly into new directions with 11 compositions of his own. As Eldar says in liner notes, he seeks to explore new harmonic language, melodic syntax and rhythmic codes. This less accessible style challenges the listener, but a close listen gives rewards.

Throughout the CD, buoyant support is given by bassist Armando Gola and drummer Ludwig Afonso, always grounding pieces in a jazz groove. Joining the trio on various tracks are Joshua Redman, tenor and soprano sax, Felipe Lamoglia, tenor sax, and Nicholas Payton, trumpet.

"Exposition" leads off with Eldar exhibiting his facility in a whirlwind of notes with Redman coming in for some dissonant interplay; Alfonso’s furious drumming keeps them at a breakneck pace.

Payton joins in for another blazer, "Blackjack." Eldar and the trumpeter carry on an agitated conversation with their instruments and appear to have grand fun exchanging phrases.

On other tracks, when the pace is slowed, Eldar is particularly effective, revealing his sensitive, lyrical side. On the ironically titled "Insensitive, the slow, lacily beautiful melody builds to a majestic finale before gently fading to the finish. Gola, empathetic on bass, is prominent here.

With "Lullaby Fantazia," the delicate piano refrain is reinforced by Alfanso’s shimmering cymbal and brush work A highlight, though, is "Estate." Eldar’s impressionist harmony brings to mind piano great Bill Evans.

On a few numbers, Eldar switches over to electronic keyboards. Noticeably on "Vanilla Sky," this pushes the music into the area of contemporary jazz fusion which could turn off some in his established fan base.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Eldar
  • CD Title: Virtue
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2010
  • Record Label: Sony Music Masterworks Jazz
  • Tracks: Exposition, Insensitive, Blues Sketch in Clave, Iris, The Exorcist, Lullaby Fantazia, Blackjack, Long Passage, Estate, Daily Living, Vanilla Sky.
  • Musicians: Eldar (piano, keyboards), Armando Gola (bass), Ludwig Afonso (drums), Nicholas Payton (trumpet, track 7), Joshua Redman(tenor and soprano saxophones, track 1), Felipe Lamoglia (saxophone, tracks 3, 7, 11).
  • Rating: Three Stars
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