Estonian pianist Kristjan Randalu straddles the worlds of jazz and classical, with a modern creative sound inspired as much by composers like Erkki-Sven Tüür and Tõnu Kõrvits as by the greats of jazz piano.
Born in Tallinn in 1978 to parents who were both classical pianists, he moved with his family to Germany at the age of nine, settling in Karlsruhe. Weaned on classical music, he discovered rock, pop, and jazz as a teenager. He attended the local music school before going on to study at the University of Music Stuttgart, the Royal Academy of Music in London, and the Manhattan School of Music. His first recorded appearance was in 2002 on Estonian singer Siiri Sisask's album Jälg. His own solo debut, Confidance, appeared in 2004 on Finetone; the following year he formed his first quartet for the album Tidbits. In 2006 he was nominated for a Grammy for his work on the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra & Big Band's album Elevation.
The albums Desde Manhattan (2009), Enter Denter, with the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra (2010), and Equilibrium, a duo effort with American guitarist Ben Monder on Fresh Sound New Talent (2012) followed. After 20 years of living abroad, Randalu moved back to Estonia where he settled with his partner, dividing his time between Tallinn and an isolated country house in the woods. As well as his own solo work, he appeared as a sideman on numerous albums by the likes of Dhafer Youssef, Matteo Sabattini, and Hedvig Hanson, and performed with many big names in jazz, such as Dave Liebman, Ari Hoenig, Eivind Aarset, Mark Guiliana, Nils Petter Molvær, and Nguyên Lê. His ECM debut, Absence, released in 2018, once again featured Monder, along with Finnish drummer Markku Ounaskari. ~ John D. Buchanan, Rovi