Thursday, July 9, 2020

Prolix and prolific, pianist Eldar Djangirov continues to load his music with intensity and detail

Eldar Djangirov with the vehicle for his grand improvisatory fantasias.
Hailed as a jazz prodigy as soon as he resettled with his family in the United States shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, where he was born, Eldar Djangirov has released recordings in abundance.

All that I've heard speaks to his ample resources of technique and imagination.  And with "Rhapsodize" (Twelve Tone Resonance), his most recent release fronting a trio, there is further evidence of his creative amplitude, presented in 11 installments of mostly originals.  Raviv Markovitz, bass, and Jimmy MacBride, drums, are his game companions.

The first three cuts present too much of a muchness, for my taste: After an ebullient run through "A Night in Tunisia," the Dizzy Gillespie evergreen, the trio explores the sensory overload of today's airports (pre-pandemic, of course) in a piece called "Airport," with the piano sound extended and maximized technically. Then comes the heavy overlay of what I presume is the massive audience ruckus he means to evoke in "Anthemic."

Thus is "Rhapsodic" launched, and while only a tin-eared listener would dismiss the line-up as a thrice-told tale, it seems that better placement of the three tracks might have made for a more refreshing way into "Rhapsodize." It certainly comes as a relief (in Track 4) to bask in the plaintive introspection of "Willow, Weep for Me," the Ann Ronell classic beloved of jazz pianists ever since Art Tatum.

Then, just as we are ready to appreciate the individualism within the trio, the disc offers  that opportunity with "Burn," which Djangirov explicitly describes as a tribute to the hard-bop tradition. The driving unity of the piece at a comfortably fast tempo allows the listener to appreciate Macbride's deft support. "Burn" also features an excellent Markovitz solo.

"Black Hole Sun" gets the Djangirov treatment in a manner that helps uphold the "new standard" banner — indicating that recent rock hits (this from Soundgarden) can be successfully adapted for acoustic-trio purposes. Classical fans receptive to jazz treatments probably will take delight in the lickety-split excursion the trio takes through Bach's C-sharp major prelude from "The Well-Tempered Clavier."

Of the rest of the disc, the title piece displays the effervescence of which Djangirov and his colleagues are capable; the performance offers reassurance that this amazing pianist doesn't inevitably insist on overwhelming you — which he can do as well as anyone.


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