A one-of-a-kind pianist and performer, you never know what Eliane Elias will do next. The Brazilian native is an indefatigable interpreter of song, effortlessly shifting between styles and moods. In concert, she has a story behind every tune and infuses her playing with a party-like groove, yet she remains a consummate musician with a deep, soulful vibe that she always brings to the material. Over the course of many albums, she has dabbled in pop, lounge, Jobim tributes and straight-ahead styles, most recently for the ECM label on the affecting instrumental favorite from 2012, Swept Away. She can still surprise, which happens frequently on I Thought About You: A Tribute To Chet Baker.
Produced in part and arranged by Elias, every hit associated with Baker swings with a touch of either Brazilian or bossa nova rhythms, supported by a first rate band of Brazilian and American musicians like bassist (and Elias’s husband) Marc Johnson, bravura trumpeter Randy Brecker and guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves. Besides the rich vamps that fulfill comfy, head-bobbing versions of the title track and “This Can’t Be Love,” the album’s spirited charm speaks directly to Elias’ precise vocals and enthralling piano playing whether on lush ballads or mid-tempo gems like “That Old Feeling.” The biggest surprise is that Elias hasn’t played up on Baker’s innate vulnerability, but rather celebrates his charisma through her own voice and melodic invention. Sultry, sexy and often endearing, I Thought About You is definitely one of the best recordings Eliane Elias has ever made. (14 tracks; 55 minutes)
By Nick Bewsey