Saturday, July 16, 2011

Eliane Elias Shows a Captivating Charm to Merge with Monster Musical Talent

Eliane Elias was a fantastic pianist when she came from her native Sao Paulo to New York City in 1981. She’s already worked with some of the best Brazilian musicians as a teenager. Her early albums show a pianist with monster chops, but with the ability to display delicate beauty. Passion and emotion.

She did a vocal album of Antonio Carlos Jobim music (Eliane Elias Sings Jobim, Blue Note, 1998) but admits she was a bit tentative with her singing. Since then, her soft, sensual voice has become more of a mainstay in her work. Dreamer (Bluebird, 2004) was a delight, as was and Boss Nova Stories (Blue Note, 2008). More surety in the vocals. With Brazilian music, she’s obviously at home and nails the material, but other songs she selects come joyfully to life.

Now there’s Light My Fire, out this year on Concord. It’s not that dissimilar in content to her recent vocal outings, but her masterful piano has a strong presence, her singing seems to grow stronger. Her band is tight. It’s a record that’s jumped up the musical charts. In support of it,. She’s on a huge tour that takes her and her sparkling band around the world. Not too many artists can boast of such an itinerary. It’s warming to see a performer of such class, style and talent get the support of fans and the music industry.

An fans, she has in large numbers. Her live concerts are always enchanting because the musicianship is so high. At Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival in Saratoga Springs, NY, in June, the band was full of energy. She did songs from the new CD, as well as some from past albums. Romero Lubambo joined on guitar. Marc Johnson, one of the finest bassists out there, is still at the hub of the rhythm and percussionist Marlvaldo dos Santos adds a great layer to the sound. The band sizzles and Elias‘ voice adds the charm and sensuality

“I’m truly very excited with this album,” she said after the concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. This album, from the very beginning, had a force of its own. It’s doing so well. It’s so wonderful to see. When you do the work, and the way it’s being received by critics, by the people … You saw the show. You see how people love it. There’s such energy. We’re very happy about it.”

It’s a joyous event when this band plays. So much that the superior musicianship might slide under the radar. But listen closely and see what’s at work. Fantastic music, great piano.

The band had been in South America and from SPAC was off to Canada. The Europe, South America again, Central America, to the United States and back to Europe. Then the U.S. and Asia. So much of the world will get to see it.
“I always brought different elements of Brazilian music, but I’ve done a lot of albums that were more instrumental. This is a vocal album that still has a lot of piano. But this album, with the vocals has more of a variety of elements of Brazilian music, than just the bossa nova. There’s some music from the north of brazil, from Bahia. And some Afro-Brazilian rhythms. Then we have percussion added,” she said. “It’s a very special album and it has an aspect to it that is different than the others. It has some very sexy moments. It has moments that are very cool, vibey. But also a lot of rhythm, groove and romance. It has different things that worked so nice together.”

Elias has found a way to get everything to work together.

Though she says her first love is jazz, having been influenced by the greats like Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett, she also loves the music of Brazil and puts a stamp on it that is now her own. It’s intimate and joyous. And her playing still smokes. Don’t be surprised if more hard-core jazz albums emerge as Elias’ career continues its growth. This is a first-rate musician whose accolades, and awards that have been amassed along the way, are well deserved.

In concert, it’s invigorating.

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