Thursday, May 7, 2009

Elaine Elias: Bossa Nova Stories

Blue Note Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 5.7.09
Buy CD: Bossa Nova Stories

Can you believe that more than 50 years have passed since bossa nova was born?

This musical child's “parents” were Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, who wrote a tune titled “Cheda de Saudade.” But the recording of “The Girl From Ipanema” — by Gilberto, Stan Getz and Gilberto's wife/vocalist Astrud — was the smash hit that turned the United States on to the bossa nova genre.

Interestingly, although Astrud Gilberto had been singing (without pay) with the group that had developed this style, the “Ipanema” recording marked her first professional appearance.

Eliane Elias grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in the 1960s, when bossa nova was the popular genre. Although it was her “daily bread,” she was a classically trained pianist who also embraced the music of jazz pianists Art Tatum and Bud Powell. She studied and toured with de Moraes from age 17 through 20, during which interval she met Jobim several times.

In 1990, when she recorded her Plays Jobim album for Blue Note, Jobim was so impressed that he recommended her for his piano substitute when he became ill. Elias followed that famous album with her equally popular 1998 release, Sings Jobim.

Bossa Nova Stories is Elias' 21st album. Half of its 14 tracks are covers of classic bossa nova tunes; the rest are equally classic American standards, all done in bossa style. When you hear them — “The More I See You,” “They Can't Take That Away from Me,” “Day In, Day Out,” “Too Marvelous for Words” and “Day by Day” — you'll quickly realize how beautifully these familiar tunes fit the bossa nova style.

If you're a fan, this is a “must have” album. And even if you aren't, I bet it'll fit onto your “wanna have” list.

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