Elegy is the ECM Records debut as a leader for German-born New York vocalist Theo Bleckmann, and he's assembled guitarist Ben Monder, pianist Shai Maestro, double-bassist Chris Tordini, and drummer John Hollenbeck to help create the musical soundscapes to go along with his melodic compositions. As much traditional jazz as it is pop and chamber music, Elegy floats from track to track, Bleckmann's ethereal vocalizations soaring over gorgeous piano melodies, tasty guitar runs, and fluid rhythms. "Fields" is simply beautiful, with a nimble guitar solo courtesy of Monder and plenty of majestic piano flights from Maestro, while "Comedy Tonight" has a quirky, fun feel to it by mixing post-bop sensibility with melodic pop. The lengthy "The Mission" is another endearing piece, the rhythms slowly working to a furious pace as vocals, piano, and guitar unleash wispy torrents that swirl and stab around each other. Brief musical interludes separate some of the main tracks, and a few are terrific, such as the daring piano excursion "Littlefields" and the brooding bass & drum rumbles of "Cortège". Guitarist Molder truly gets to shine on the raging "Take My Life", an upbeat, complex piece that sees axe-man stepping on the overdrive pedal for some rock based solos, eventually giving way to Maestro's intricate melodies and Blackmann's charming vocals.
Overall, Elegy is a nice listen, and far from what we'd normally expect from the ECM Roster. Plenty of twists & turns to be found, and Bleckmann's melodies can be quite engaging. Monder is the secret weapon here, though I would have liked to have heard more from him, but any fan of modern jazz will find this a refreshing listen.
02 Comedy Tonight
04 The Mission
07 To Be Shown To Monks At A Certain
09 Elegy (Var.)
10 Take My Life