Eliane Elias, Vocal and Latin jazz Artist
This week’s Featured Artist is a native Brazilian, and an accomplished jazz pianist and vocalist. Her music is an eclectic blend of Brazilian and main stream classical jazz. Meet jazz pianist, songwriter, arranger and vocalist – Eliane Elias
Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Genre: Jazz, Bossa Nova
Pianist/singer/songwriter, Eliane Elias is known for her distinctive and immediately recognizable musical style which blends her Brazilian roots and her sensuous, alluring voice with her impressive instrumental jazz, classical and compositional skills. Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Elias’ musical talents began to show at an early age. She started studying piano at age seven, and at age twelve was transcribing solos from the great jazz masters. By the time she was fifteen, she was teaching piano and improvisation at one of Brazil’s most prestigious schools of music. Her performing career began in Brazil at age seventeen, working with Brazilian singer/songwriter Toquinho and the great poet Vinicius de Moraes, who was also Antonio Carlos Jobim’s co-writer/lyricist. In 1981, she headed for New York and in 1982 landed a spot in the acclaimed group Steps Ahead.
Her first album release was a collaboration with Randy Brecker entitled Amanda in 1984. Shortly thereafter her solo career began, spanning over twenty albums to date. In her work Elias has documented dozens of her own compositions, her outstanding piano playing and arranging, and beautiful vocal interpretations. All of her recordings have garnered a great deal of praise from the critics and all have topped the Billboard and jazz radio charts. In 1988 she was voted Best New Talent in the Critics Poll of Jazziz magazine.
Together with Herbie Hancock, she was nominated for a GRAMMY® in the “Best Jazz Solo Performance” category for her 1995 release, Solos and Duets. This recording was hailed by Musician magazine as “a landmark in piano duo history.” In the 1997 Downbeat Readers Poll, her recording The Three Americas was voted Best Jazz Album. Elias was also named in five other categories: Beyond Musician, Best Composer, Jazz Pianist, Female Vocalist, and Musician of the Year. Considered one of the great interpreters of Jobim’s music, Elias has recorded two albums solely dedicated to the works of the composer, Plays Jobim and Sings Jobim. Her 1998 release Eliane Elias Sings Jobim won Best Vocal Album in Japan, was the number one record on Japan’s charts for over three months and was awarded Best Brazilian Album in the Jazziz Critics Poll.
Moreover, as a testament to the quality of her writing, the renowned Danish Radio Big Band has performed and recorded Elias’ compositions, arranged and conducted by the legendary Bob Brookmeyer. The CD recording of this project is called Impulsive and was released on Stunt Records. It received a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album in 2001. The same year, Calle54, the highly acclaimed documentary film by Oscar-winning Spanish director Fernando Trueba, featured Elias’ performance of “Samba Triste” and also received a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album.
On the Classical Side, recorded in 1993, demonstrated Elias’ classical skills with a program of Bach, Ravel, and Villa Lobos. In 2002, Elias recorded with opera sensation Denyce Graves. For this recording, The Lost Days, she arranged two Brazilian classical pieces and wrote an original composition especially for Graves entitled “HaabiaTupi.”
In 2002, Elias signed to the RCA Music Group/Bluebird label and released Kissed by Nature, an album consisting of mostly original compositions. Dreamer, her second recording for the label (released in 2004), was a fresh mix of tunes from the American Songbook, Brazilian Bossa Novas, and two new originals, all sung in English and Portuguese and supported by a full orchestra. Dreamer received the Gold Disc Award and was voted Best Vocal Album in Japan in 2004. It reached No. 3 on the pop charts in France and No. 4 on the Billboard charts in the U.S.
Elias’ Around The City, released on RCA Victor in August 2006, merges bits ofBossa Nova, with shades of pop, jazz, Latin and even rock & roll. Around The City features Elias’ vocals and songwriting in collaborations with producers Andres Levin and Lester Mendez, as well as fresh takes on pop classics such as Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va” and Bob Marley’s “Jammin”.
Elias returned to Blue Note/ EMI in 2007 with Something For You, a tribute to the music of the late great Bill Evans. While touching the essence of the pianist/composer, she also brings her own unique gifts to the surface, as a composer, interpreter, outstanding instrumentalist and beguiling vocalist. This release won Best Vocal Album of the Year and the Gold Disc Award in Japan. This is also the third consecutive recording of Elias to receive these awards and her fourth overall. Something for You reached No. 1 on the U.S. Jazz Radio charts, No. 8 on Billboard and No. 2 on the French Jazz Charts.
2008 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Bossa Nova. In celebration of this event, Elias recorded Bossa Nova Stories, featuring some of the landmark songs of Brazil with American classic and pop standards, exquisitely performed as only she can, with lush romantic vocals and exciting playing accompanied by a stellar rhythm section and strings recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London. Destined to become a classic, Bossa Nova Stories achieved the following: Debuted at No. 1 on the French Charts (2008), No. 1 Vocal Album from Swing Journal, Japan (May-June 2008), No. 1 iTunes Top Jazz Album (January 2009), No. 2 iTunes Top Latin Album (January 2009), debuted at No. 2 on Billboard’s Overall and Top Jazz Charts (January 2009). Bossa Nova Stories was also nominated by the Brazilian GRAMMYs (20th Premio da Musica Brasileira, 2009) for Best Foreign Album. Elias was No. 2 on the Annual Jazz Charts 2008 (denotes artist CD sales in France).
In 2009, EMI Japan released Eliane Elias Plays Live, an all-instrumental trio album with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron of a concert recorded in Amsterdam May 31, 2002. This performance demonstrates modern jazz trio playing at the highest level and spotlight Elias’s inventiveness and supreme command of the instrument on a collection of jazz standards and one original.
In 2011, Concord Records’ Light My Fire reached #1 on the French Jazz Charts, #1 on itunes France, #3 on Billboard’s Jazz Charts, #3 on iTunes and Amazon’s Jazz Charts in the USA. The cd features four compositions written or co-written by Elias herself and also includes covers of familiar works by songwriters as diverse as Jim Morrison and the Doors, pop icon Stevie Wonder and jazz saxophonist Paul Desmond. Backing Elias is a crew of twelve high-caliber players, including special guests such as guitarist/vocalist Gilberto Gil and trumpeter Randy Brecker. On Light My Fire, Elias wears many hats – as singer, pianist, composer, arranger and producer. Eliane’s song “What about the Heart” (Bate Bate) received a Grammy nomination for Best Brazilian Song.
Her latest release for Concord Records “I Thought About You” A Tribute to Chet Baker, is due out in May of 2013 and offers her personalized spin on the work of a key American jazz artist while spotlighting her connection to the singer-instrumentalist tradition. It fully demonstrates the range of interests that Elias’ art now boasts, and arrives with a statement of purpose: jazz repertoire can sound totally fresh when delivered with ingenuity and passion. As a singer, Elias’s emotional candor and deep sense of time are part of I Thought About You’s main attractions. Elias’ charm, swing and charisma are right up front, and united with her incisive piano playing, they make a peerless package. It’s one of Elias’ most thoughtfully constructed albums, and shows just how adroitly she moves around the bossa-jazz-blues nexus.
With this impressive, varied body of work, Eliane Elias takes her place in the pantheon of music giants. Demonstrating her unique gifts as a pianist, singer, composer and arranger as well as melding her immense talents in jazz, pop, classical and Brazilian music, she is as Jazziz magazine has called her, “A citizen of the world” and “an artist beyond category.”
Biographical information courtesy of Eliane Elias website