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 Tuesday, 01 December 2015
Eldar’s “Virtue” (2009, Sony Masterworks) PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Tuesday, 08 September 2009
Image“It’s not the flash and fire that should stir interest in Eldar. It’s what he does when the razzle-dazzle dies down and we sense substance within and beyond his pyrotechnics.” So noted Downbeat a few years ago when a 19-year-old Eldar Djangirov released Live at the Blue Note with hotshot guests Roy Hargrove and Chris Botti. Three years and two recordings later, the flash and fire continue to blaze, but in support of an increasingly substantial and original music. On his new Sony Masterworks release, Virtue, Eldar and his working trio (talented young bassist Armando Gola and drummer Ludwig Afonso) create what the pianist refers to as “a soundtrack to my direct experiences since I've moved to New York City." Aided and abetted by guests Joshua Redman, Felipe Lamoglia (saxes) and Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Virtue triumphs as much via nuance as pyrotechnics, and there’s plenty of both throughout the ten original compositions (8 written or co-written by Eldar) and one particularly exquisite reading of “Estaté.

Since emigrating from his native Kyrgyzstan nearly ten years ago, Eldar has been variously compared to Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock and more; yet he also seems to conjure the harmonic expansiveness of McCoy Tyner and at times the lyrical sensitivity of Bill Evans. On Virtue, his alternating power and delicacy suggest another pianist closer to his generation, Japanese sensation Hiromi. Yet Eldar goes into territory I wish Hiromi would explore more fully, a more integrated insertion of electronic keyboards into the general framework of acoustic elements, often building structures that suggest larger ensembles. His “Exposition” gives the recording a bing-bang start, guest Joshua Redman’s tenor soaring and twisting over the electronic gurgles and burps, ultimately falling into a call and response between acoustic piano and sax, high on the energy and frenzy of urban bustle. Immediately following with his “Insensitive,” the trio shifts to its gentler side, Eldar’s Chopinesque piano introduction shifting to a more abstract journey, with rapid-fire lyricism melded with Romantic cascades--why not use a dozen notes, even if one would do, to establish mood and melody? “Estaté” similarly is showered in embellishments that, rather than excess, add delicacy as Eldar weaves a fine mesh on which the melody can float. Throughout Virtue, Eldar manages to avoid clichés and self-indulgent splash, his technical heroism always serving the art. This is Eldar’s boldest and most substantial outing yet. Child Prodigy no more, Eldar is a maturing talent with an insatiable artistic imagination.

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