Eldar Djangirov, the jazz pianist who previously recorded under his first name only, has been receiving rave reviews since he began performing as a young child. Those kudos are justified -- even as a prodigy, Djangirov dazzled with his technique, earning comparisons to masters such as Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. For one thing, his speed on the instrument is unreal, but he's never been solely about virtuosity -- never showoffy, Djangirov packs plenty of emotion into his music as well as chops. For this solo piano set, Djangirov has expanded his reach, including classical material and original compositions as well as several diverse covers spanning Great American Songbook standards to more traditional jazz repertoire and even a Dave Matthews tune. Djangirov's playing is, simply, flawless, yet he avoids sterility. Whether diving into Gershwin's "Embraceable You," Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee," or Bach's Prelude in C-sharp Major, Djangirov's interpretations are always personalized and never less than inviting. On Thelonious Monk's "In Walked Bud," played in 5/4 time, Djangirov's captures the angularity of the original but tosses in enough flamboyant flourish that one might mistake him for a bebop Liberace (in a positive, enjoyable way). His take on Jimmy Van Heusen's "Darn That Dream" is imbued with a dreamy, tinkling mystery, and the Chick Corea number that follows it, "Windows," is introspective and elegant. So too is the Matthews tune, "So Damn Lucky," which sways between a modified boogie and something more regal and expressive. Djangirov's original numbers -- highlighted by the expansive title track -- vary in mood and tone, striking a measured balance between the pianist's jazz side and his classical training. It all comes together magnificently in the set's tour de force, "Rhapsody in Blue," a breathtaking 15-minute Djangirov-arranged take on the iconic opus that surveys a wide range of stylings, dispositions, and tempos. It's a sonic tour well worth taking, the highlight of this recording that, more than any of his previous works, exposes Eldar Djangirov's massive abilities and singular approach.
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AllMusic Review by Jeff Tamarkin
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