Thursday, May 1, 2008

Eliane Elias: Something for You

Blue Note Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 5.1.08
Buy CD: Something for You

Eliane Elias is a consummate pianist, vocalist, composer and arranger. 

She was born in Brazil in 1960, began to play the piano at age 6, and was writing her own pieces — and performing — at 17. She toured throughout South America with top Brazilian artists and then, while in Europe, met jazz bassist Eddie Gomez; he encouraged her to move to New York. 

Once in the Big Apple, she joined Steps Ahead, a jazz fusion group with which Gomez was playing. The other members included Mike Mainieri on vibes, Michael Brecker on tenor sax and Peter Erskine on drums. 

After leaving that band, Elias worked with trumpet player Randy Brecker (Michael's brother); they subsequently married. She formed her own group in 1986 and in '88 was elected best new talent by the JAZZIZ magazine poll of jazz critics. Several of her albums have received Grammy Award nominations. 

Her discography is quite extensive; between 1986 to the present day, she has been featured on 22 albums. 

She has a wonderful, laid-back style, and an innovative approach — second to none — to anything she plays. Although she has a great jazz voice, she didn't make that part of her act until '89; since then, her vocals have become a key element of her albums. 

Although Elias never worked with pianist Bill Evans, she was deeply influenced by his music. Marc Johnson, her current husband, played with Evans' trio during the final few years of his life. (He died in 1980.) Her respect for Evans led to this album. 

Six of the tunes here were written by Evans; the rest — except one of Elias' compositions — are covers of melodies that he performed during his concerts. Too many Evans "favorites" exist for any one album, so Elias decided to keep her renditions short, rather than plan for a follow-on release. 

That was a mistake. The arrangement are so beautiful, the renditions so great, that just when the listener is really locked-in ... the piece ends. Granted, an old adage states that a performer should leave the audience wanting more, and that's certainly true with this CD ... but I'd rather look forward to another album! 

I also must note that Johnson adds tremendously to the quality of her group; they read each other's minds. 

This lady — and her trio — are as good as anything I've heard in years.

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