Though most Americans couldn't list the main exports of Kyrgyzstan or any of the "-stans" for that matter, few would debate that twenty-year-old jazz pianist Eldar (né Eldar Djangirov) is the best to ever come out of the tiny former Soviet republic. Classically trained at age five, the young whiz came up listening to masters like Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, and Thelonious Monk, and quickly figured out how to play his own lines around their already jagged melodies. Eldar recently latched onto some of the current trends in jazz — such as that pomo-hybrid thing of combining Carnegie Hall-worthy piano performances with funk rhythms and DJ scratches (he lists Bronx-raised turntablist DJ Logic among his personnel), or adding "re" to his album title as if to suggest that it's an original with a "remixed" sensibility. Such adornments liken this album, his third effort for Sony BMG, to In My Element, a 2007 release by jazz pianist Robert Glasper (whose album consists almost entirely of vamps), except that the astonishingly quick-witted and sensitive Eldar could run circles around Glasper any day. He opens Re-Imagination with a sample of a record player crackling — the same sound that kick-starts most classic hip-hop albums. Then the real Steinway piano comes crashing in, and we hear Eldar playing intricate two-handed piano lines that seem to ripple around each other. Even if you're not a real jazz buff, the effect is stunning.

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