Album Review: Michael Echaniz, Seven Shades of Violet.

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Few debut albums carry the weight of life experiences quite like Michael Echaniz’s “Seven Shades of Violet,” released on September 8, 2023, via Ridgeway Records. This remarkable jazz pianist has channeled a profound depth of emotion and artistic expression into his music, making it an undeniable passion project that emerges from the ashes of his battle with stage 4 lymphoma. As part of Ridgeway’s Rising Stars series, this album is a testament to Echaniz’s remarkable journey, resilience, and his undeniable talent.

Echaniz’s life took an unexpected turn shortly after completing his undergraduate degree at the California Jazz Conservatory. Dealing with a severe case of blood cancer for two years, including grueling treatments like chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and a stem cell transplant, Echaniz’s journey to remission became the emotional foundation for “Seven Shades of Violet.” His unwavering determination and newfound perspective imbue this album with a profound depth and seriousness that is felt throughout. The album’s subtitle, “Rebiralost,” is a clever anagram of “bertsolari,” a performer of improvised song in Basque culture, reflecting Echaniz’s heritage. This word carries hints of loss and rebirth, mirroring the composer’s own journey through health challenges.

The core trio for this session includes the multi-talented bassist, vocalist, and Ridgeway label founder Jeff Denson, as well as the versatile drummer and percussionist Dillon Vado. The album is further enriched by the captivating voices of Denson, Danielle Wertz, and Molly Pease, along with a stellar lineup of guest musicians who add vibrant layers to Echaniz’s compositions.

“Seven Shades of Violet” draws its title from Echaniz’s fascination with mathematics and color, serving as a metaphor for the rich and subtly varied hues he paints with his music. Echaniz skillfully blends the worlds of numbers and emotions, resulting in a synesthetic musical experience that dazzles with its complex and shifting structures.

Take the title track, with a 12-bar blues at its core it’s cloaked in complex harmonies making the form almost indistinguishable from the traditional form. Echaniz’s innovative approach infuses the piece with a melancholic purple or violet hue, perfectly aligning with the album’s evocative title. Of note here is bassist Jeff Denson’s solo and the use of the vocal overdubs.

Echaniz’s musical partnership with Jeff Denson, which began during their time at the California Jazz Conservatory, has evolved into an artistic collaboration of great depth. Their shared history, spanning various eras of jazz, informs the unique blend of tradition and innovation found in this album.

“Seven Shades of Violet” is not just a collection of individual compositions; it’s an intricately constructed and musically complex masterpiece. The album’s arrangement, with a “Prologue” and “Epilogue” framing the core tracks, showcases Echaniz’s attention to detail. His rendition of Wayne Shorter’s “Prince of Darkness”, as noted in the press release, is the “… album’s sole selection from the jazz canon and is the keyboardist’s method of linking his forward-thinking music to the tradition.


Echaniz’s original compositions draw from a diverse range of influences. “Proxima Centauri,” featuring the enthralling vocals of Denson and Wertz, looks to the stars, mirroring the artist’s own journey towards recovery. “Clockwork” like much of the album is thymically complex and incorporates Arthur Rimbaud’s poignant text, connecting the Franco-Prussian war to Echaniz’s own battle with cancer. Reaching toward the Latin with the addition of percussionist Silvestre Martinez, “Gernika” is a heartfelt reflection on the 1937 bombing of the Basque town, echoing Pablo Picasso’s iconic painting. Denson’s contribution on Fretless combined with Martinez and rummer Dillon Vado’s propelling drive elevate this track to a album highlight.

Lastly, “Fantaisie 73,” pays tribute to Chopin’s “Fantaisie-Impromptu” however Echaniz takes this in a totally unexpected direction, diametrically opposed to what one may expect. The use of pizzicato in the strings was a interesting and welcome addition to the arrangement.

In “Seven Shades of Violet,” Michael Echaniz has not only crafted a dazzling debut album but also an immersive musical journey that tells the story of his resilience and unwavering passion for jazz. This is an artist who has risen from the depths of adversity to create an album that is not only a sonic delight but also a testament to the enduring power of music and the human spirit. Echaniz’s future in jazz shines brighter than ever, and we eagerly await his next artistic chapter.

Michael Echaniz, piano, fender rhodes and keyboards | Jeff Denson, Bass & vocals | Dillon Vado, drums & percussion | Danielle Wertz, Vocals | Molly Pease, vocals | Dann Zinn, tenor sax | Silvestre Martinez, congas and percussion | Salcedo, guitar | Shay Salhov, alto sax | Erik Jekabson, trumpet | John Gove, trombone | the strings ofFriction Quartet.

Track Listing.
1. Prologue | 2. Seven Shades of Violet | 3. Proxima Centauri | 4. Clockwork (Un carillon à musique dans la fumée poétique) | 5. Interlude | 6. Prince of Darkness | 7. Edulretni | 8. Everything Is Embarrassing (feat. Dann Zinn) | 9. Gernika (Bask Balms) (feat. Silvestre Martinez) | 10. Fantaisie 73 (feat. Friction Quartet) | 11. Epilogue

Release Date: 8 September 2023
Format: CD | Streaming
Label Ridgeway Records

Last modified: September 15, 2023