Around the City
Record LabelRCA Victor
Track Listing1. Tropicalia
2. A Vizinha Do Lado (The Next Dood Neighbor)
3. Save Your Love For Me
4. Chiclete Com Banana
5. Segredos (Secrets)
6. Oye Como Va
7. Slide Show
8. Around The City
11. We're So Good
12. Another Day
13. Segredos (Secrets) Part 2
- JAZZ VOCAL AWARD & the GOLD DISC AWARD, Swing Journal, Japan 2006
- Debuted on the French Jazz Charts at #1
- #1 on the World Music Charts – USA
- Eliane’s song ,”Running”, featured on ABC’s TV series,”Brothers and Sisters”
For Brazilian born pianist and composer, Eliane Elias, the bristling tableau of songs that make up her 18th album, Around The City, crackle with the vitality of an urban nightscape. But it’s the mortar between the virtuosic gems crafted by Eliane, this time around, that sets Around The City apart from any of her other acclaimed efforts.
Staking out fertile co-writing sessions (for the first time in her career) with album co-producer, Lester Mendez, and songwriter Lauren Christy, as well as creative collaborations with the disc’s other co-producer, Andres Levin, Eliane focused on what she calls: “A vocal structure where the voice becomes almost a character itself.” She also imbues the 13 song disc with a sense of in-the-moment dynamics and fearless playfulness that rivals even the best contemporary rock sonnets. Once again the noted jazz sensation dazzles with her mesmerizing pianism and brave and delectable helpings of material, offering up exotic covers, including the Tito Puente penned-Santana hit “Oye Como Va”, an inspired version of Bob Marley’s “Jammin’”, and even a swirling Beck selection, “Tropicalia,” (culled from his 1998 album Mutations), which ironically, was a homage to the Brazilian Tropicalia psychedelic/soul fusion movement of the mid-1960’s (powered by the likes of Sao Paulo musical anarchists Os Mutantes, and Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa and Gilberto Gil, among others), the latter of whom influenced Eliane’s early years.
It’s these kind of full-circle thematic leaps that Eliane traverses with such ease on Around The City, each song an entry-point into this ‘dual’ jazz citizen’s (as one reviewer dubbed her) musical template, with Eliane effortlessly gliding from song to song in both Portuguese and English. “I wanted the album to come alive – to be almost visual,” she says, the combustible title track proof-of-point, with its snapshot-narrative of city life from the perspective of a lonely ingÈnue. The album also represents the birth of a formidable slice-of-life songwriting style unleashed by Eliane. “A city can be lonely in places, while at the same time in another part of town, it’s exploding with energy. A good album with the right collection of songs can capture simultaneous emotions, as well. We are all definitely a product of the world around us and a city reflects that awareness better than anything. The different moods, the different struggles and challenges. I have always tried to take my upbringing, my background, and put it in my music. On this album I was more conscious than ever of carrying on with that attitude in every song.”
Literally evidenced on the disc’s opener, “Running,” a rousing self-declaration, with Eliane toasting those elastic Brazilian roots of hers with lines such as: Into the darkness/Not scared of loving/I turn my lights on/’Cause where I’m from we carry on…
“In Brazil we definitely ‘carry’ on” she laughs.
“The genesis of that song starts with the positive message or spirit I felt when making this record. I never begin something if I don’t feel it, and I knew before I started this project I wanted to concentrate on my writing more, where I consciously wrote involving my voice. I also knew that it was time for me to work with other writers and producers. Writing with Lester and Lauren and working closely with Andres Levin felt like a natural progression . They were all fans of my earlier work and intuitively knew the direction I wanted to go. I didn’t want to go out and make a Dreamer 2.”
A reference to her most recent release, 2004’s Dreamer, which scored both critical raves and some important career ‘firsts.’ “It was the first album where I concentrated on vocals and sang mostly in English,” says Eliane. It was also the first album where she was backed by a full orchestra. The songs on Dreamer were mostly covers, featuring several American songwriting standards, such as “Call Me” and “That’s All,” placed in a bossa nova setting. The well-received disc also featured two Eliane originals, and showcased – according to the artist – ‘the pianist accompanying the singer.’
“Dreamer enabled me to go all over the world singing those standards, with audiences growing increasingly enthusiastic with my voice. I knew I wanted my next project to be something where I could really personalize that imprint – through more writing and singing – challenging myself, but with a sense of adventure and abandon.”
Eliane also hooked up with lively producer Andres Levin, Latin-funk master known as the brainchild behind the Afro/Latin/Hip hop fusion of Yerba Buena (2005’s Island Life). It was as if Levin helped Eliane channel some of those funkier tropical side-streets herself on songs such as “Jammin’,” which features two live drummers and a looped chorus (the disc also boast Eliane’s first all-out use of electronic loops), the low-ride flavor of “Slide Show,” and the Santana classic “Oye Como Va,” where, Eliane says: “We mix bossa nova with a deep latin groove which is something I always wanted to do.”
Harboring such eclectic passions has always been a trademark of Eliane’s compositional DNA. “From my earliest musical memories I had a passion for doing something in a different, new way. These ideas were just swimming around in my head. You have to remember I never aspired to be a singer. The challenge was always the music.It was the piano for me. And composing. I was always writing and I was such a lover of improvised music, Brazilian rhythm and American jazz, how could I not dream of ways to one day integrate all these wonderful sounds into my own creations.”
Such a journey began even before Eliane was a teenager. Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, she learned the piano at age 7, and was already transcribing heaping solo portions of her parents’ jazz records by the age of 12.
After studying for 6 years (and teaching by age 15) at Brazil’s prestigious Free Center of Music Apprenticeship, where she learned to hone her incredible improvisational skills, she continued her classical education with Amilton Godoy and Amaral Vieria. She was also the protÈgÈ of Vinicius de Moraes, lyricist and songwriting partner of Antonio Carlos Jobim, a huge influence on Eliane’s work, and master of the Brazilian Bossa Nova movement that indelibly influenced many American songwriters. By age 17, she was touring with the best Bossa Nova composers and interpreters the world had to offer, composing her own pieces and performing at jazz clubs regularly. It was during this period she was befriended by jazz bassist Eddie Gomez and encouraged to come to New York City where she could showcase her incredible talent to the world.
Eliane moved to New York in 1981, and studied privately with Olegna Fuschi at the Julliard School of Music, eventually joining jazz ‘supergroup’ Steps Ahead (whose members included Gomez, Michael Brecker, Peter Erskine and Mike Mainieri).
Signed to legendary Blue Note Records in 1986, after releasing her debut album Amanda (named after her daughter), Eliane would ultimately become the label’s most prolific and enduring artist, delivering 15 albums, mostly instrumental – a great deal of them topping Billboard’s Jazz charts, including 1995’s Grammy nominated Solos And Duets, featuring Herbie Hancock, and 1998’s vocal turning-point, Eliane Elias Sings Jobim her first full-length foray into the vocal arena (and a follow-up to her earlier ode to the master, Eliane Elias Plays Jobim).
Eliane signed with RCA/Bluebird Jazz in 2002, releasing the sultry Kissed By Nature. 2004’s Dreamer was her second album for the new label, and a wake-up call to fans that Eliane’s vocal adventures were just beginning. “Once I began singing more, fans would actually come up to me afterwards and ask me to please sing more in future shows. I also began to realize there was a technical side to it as fascinating as the piano. What I loved about working on Around The City is that there are songs where I stretch my abilities with both playing and singing.”
A perfect example is the buoyant “Chiclete” an old Brazilian favorite given a fresh coat of paint by Eliane. The song, a Jackson do Pandeiro classic, is a playful romp that translates as ‘Chiclete Com Banana – ‘Chewing gum with Bananas,’ featuring a vexing mouthful of a verse that goes something like this: ‘I only put bebop in my samba when Uncle Sam plays the tamborim. When he learns that samba is not rumba then I will mix Miami with Copacabana.’ As one would guess, isn’t easy to do and even harder to sing. “That is an exciting song that has great elasticity to it,” says Eliane. “I purposely chose it because it was such a vocal challenge, but at the same time such a fun song to sing.”
But Eliane’s attention to the vocal demands of Around The City in no way diminishes her lifelong discipline of expert musicianship. Blessed with a peerless playing style, the prospect of her fingers gracing those keys still lures fans from all across the globe. As with all of her works, Around The City also finds her backed by a stable of the world’s greatest musicians (and several longtime collaborators) including Randy Brecker, Marc Johnson, Oscar-Castro Neves, Paulo Braga, Paulinho da Costa and many more, with Eliane offering up riveting new testaments to the musical muse that has moved her all these years, particularly on the ethereal “Segredos,” (Parts 1 and 2).” Two of the silkier tracks on the album, the title translates as “Secrets,” with the song split in two by the craft-conscious Eliane for surprisingly practical reasons. “The song was too long so we decided to divide it and make an end piece, and it worked perfectly,” she says. But don’t be too fooled by the cut-and-dry reasoning. The album’s delicious coda almost seems to sigh under the magical breeze of her wistful piano. ‘Don’t give it all away…’ she murmurs at the end of the CD. Around The City – and back again – with the irresistible promise of much, much more from this great talent yet to come.