Eldar Djangirov, the room-filling pianist, returned to Kansas City Sunday for a multi-night run at Jardine’s and took no time at all to endear himself to a loyal crowd.
In the first set, the onetime prodigy showed off the full range of his talents, as a formidable performer and now an emerging composer.
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Kansas Citians got to know Eldar as a 9- or 10-year-old, an immigrant from Kyrgyzstan, who could torch the keyboard with jaw-dropping precision. By the time he left for the West Coast as a 16-year-old, the mechanical quality of his playing had begun to soften.
Now, five years later, as a widely admired pro based in New York, Eldar has grown new layers of complexity.
On Sunday, he sported an electronic keyboard atop the piano, occasionally playing fusion-like runs with his right hand, and piano chords with his left.
But working with Cuban-born bassist Armanda Gola, often on a powerful six-string electric, and drummer Ludwig Afonso seems to have opened up a new emphasis on rhythmic and lyrical exploration. Some tunes had a refreshing sense of fun and funk.
Eldar always has seemed to be in a hurry, cramming as many notes into a song as he could, as if he leaving anything out meant there’d be hell to pay.
But these days he has found use for a little quiet and softness.
Along with fiery versions of standards (such as a blazing reinvention of Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love?”), Eldar played a few of his own compositions. Typical was “Insensitive,” where a rushing stream of notes gave way to lighter melodic statements and even some introspective charm.
But more often than not he gave the club’s new piano a steroidal workout with pounding chords and two-fisted energy. His closer, “Place St. Henri,” by his avowed earliest jazz hero, Oscar Peterson, sent listeners to the moon and back.