The musician, left alone with the instrument is almost always confronted by the naked truth. Not only with “the truth” of the instrument, but more critically, the very innermost – or naked – truth of the artistic endeavour itself. Guided thus: veritas nobis lumen [let truth be our light] as it were, art and expression wrestle interminably. When, as the German philosopher Martin Heidegger argued [that] the truth [is] represented by aletheia [which essentially means unconcealment] art and artist triumph. I, for one, posit that Rachel Eckroth may have achieved just that on her short recording One, just as Keith Jarrett once did on his iconic recording The Köln Concert [ECM, 1975] and just as a several others may have across the ages, in other streams of music as well.
Refusniks and naysayers may question the hyperbole of this, but truth and beauty are not necessarily mutually exclusive aspects – especially not when art imitates life; when the soul is bared or when – as Ludwig van Beethoven cajoled artists as follows: “Don’t only practice your art. But force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to The Divine.” And artists such as Miss Eckroth, who are serious about their art, know that very well. They also know that the struggle to express the truth about artistic self is fraught with both ugliness and beauty. Miss Eckroth’s works on this recording – with wild moments of fortissimo and pianissimo, consonance, and dissonance [cue Black Eyed Susan, as an example of all of the above], have enabled her to raise the bar of her performance to reveal raw and sensitive insights into her artistic personae.
But in making music that could be beautiful [as in Don’t Go], argumentative yet compelling [as in Orion] and pianistically insolent and yet eloquently her own [as in Prelude to a Kiss written by Duke Ellington] Miss Eckroth makes a compelling argument for truth in her art – perhaps even more so on this album than she has ever done before. That she is also a first-tier pianist has long gone unnoticed. Nowhere is this more obvious than on Light Sleeper, which is the dénouement and apogee of her ever-so-elegant solo album. Here her pianism reigns supreme. Here she captures her art particularly beautifully, displaying a power of clarity of phrasing and articulation usually more the domain of pianists; marquee names who [for that very reaon of their machismo and BIG bravado] are often not really worthy of having their names up in lights.
Truth be told, when it comes to [articulating] musicianship few can lay claim to such unvarnished, yet riveting artistic evocations – sadness or joy, ugliness, or beauty – as Miss Eckroth does, within the realms of the human, through understated expression and gentle and robust articulation. This is pianism at its most naked and at its very best.
Music – 1: Don’t Go; 2: Three Wheels; 3: Minuscule; 4: High Desert Winter; 5: Prelude to a Kiss; 6: One Eyed Pete; 7: Downstream, Upstream; 8: Black Eyed Susan; 9: Orion; 10: Neverend; 11: Light Sleeper.
Musicians – Rachel Eckroth: piano.
Released – 2023
Label – Independent
Runtime – 32:57