Sony Masterworks is pleased to announce the release of Virtue, a new recording from jazz keyboard virtuoso Eldar, on August 25. His fourth album on Sony Masterworks, Virtue affirms his position at the forefront of contemporary jazz and is a fitting follow-up to his 2008 Grammy-nominated album, re-imagination.
Partnered by bassist Armando Gola and drummer Ludwig Afonso, Virtue features mostly original compositions by Eldar and demonstrates the continued development of his writing. Eldar also welcomes guest appearances by trumpeter Nicholas Payton and saxophonists Joshua Redman and Felipe Lamoglia.
Referencing re-imagination, Alex Miller, General Manager at Sony Masterworks, observes that Virtue "implements the same creative freedoms but in a new way. Eldar's band approached the studio with compositions fully formed, an esprit de corps that enlivens each song, and a balance between assertiveness and sensitivity that only maturity brings."
That maturity belies the fact that even after making a sensational first impression with the release of his debut album nine years ago, Eldar is still just 22 years old. His prodigious gifts were evident from childhood and Virtue balances exhilarating youthful energy with a new found sophistication and depth of reflection that mirrors his personal and creative growth.
"I'm so proud of this album, more so than any I've done so far, " he insists. "In many ways, you could think of it as a soundtrack to my direct experiences since I've moved to New York City."
It's been three years since he relocated from Los Angeles and began processing the stimuli that his new home provided. The outcome on Virtue is at the same time adventurous and accessible. Its individual tracks combine to create an impression as complex as an urban skyline, through which Eldar and his group channel their ideas, challenging each other through interactions as alive as the rush of humanity through city streets.
From the start, Eldar took an experimental approach to this project. "I came up with intricate frameworks but allowed it to expand in a rhapsodic way, " he explains. "That means I didn't limit myself. I didn't write with any idea of form, like A-A-B-A. Instead, I set my goals and priorities, priorities by experimenting with harmonic movements, melodic ideas, and rhythmic codes. Through this, I was able to shape and develop these ideas which eventually became the basis for the compositions for this album."
After laying the compositional foundation of Virtue, Eldar brought Gola and Afonso into the mix. Immediately, they made themselves integral to the album's ongoing conception. "Their musical priorities were similar to mine, " he says. "When we started rehearsing, the music became our bond. We started having ideas together, so the process of development began taking place within the band."
Equally important, they established an intuitive communication that was critical to transforming those ideas into compelling performances. Eventually they reached a point where, as Eldar puts it, "we all feel like we know where this train is going. We listen constantly to each other as we play. If somebody goes in an unexpected direction, we don't go against him; we move and breathe together. We rely on each other. It comes from following our impulses rather than 'reading' this note at that exact time."
Born in Kyrgyzstan and raised in Kansas City, Eldar started playing jazz festivals before the age of ten (in what was then the Soviet Union). In 1998, he and his family emigrated to the United States and resettled in Kansas City. He became the youngest guest ever to appear on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz. Later, he pursued advanced study at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, and eventually began enjoying a career that has seen him in performances throughout the United States, Europe, Indonesia, Japan and South America.
Live national television shows fill his calendar, with highlights including a performance at last year's Grammy Awards telecast, the first time in many years a jazz artist was so honored, and the second time for such an appearance. Eldar has also been seen on Conan O'Brian, CBS Saturday Early Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live and CBS Sunday Morning. 2009 is a busy year for the artist with sets booked throughout the United States and Europe.
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