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London Times review of Eliane at Union Chapel

Clive Davis
Published at 12:01AM, October 1 2013
The Times of London

At first it seemed it might be the wrong venue. After all, Eliane Elias is much more used to playing Ronnie Scott’s when she comes to London. Yet by the end of the evening the Brazilian singer-pianist had turned the crowded Congregational church into the most intimate of nightclubs.

It makes perfect sense for her to have chosen Chet Baker as the subject of her new album, I Thought About You. Live the ill-starred trumpeter, Elias – born in Sao Paulo but now based the the US – is an instrumentalist who has made a small voice go a long, long way. Her vocals, which were a surprisingly late addition to her repertoire, add an extra dimension of fragility and romance; she brings native guile to every Jobim standard she touches.

When she locks on to a bop theme she swings as hard and intelligently as any pianist from the post-bill Evans generation. If her technique can, in fact, be overpowering at times, her singing creates a rare sense of space and repose. When she purred her way through There Will Never Be Another You, the parallels with Baker’s own understated phrasing were startling. Drummer Rafael Barata, guitarist Steve Cardenas, and Danish bassist Thomas Oveson provided impeccable accompaniment.

The music floated even more delicately when Barata briefly left the stage. Baker was fond of working withouth a drummer, as Elias reminded us by quoting one of his off-hand comments: “it takes a great durmmer to be better than no drummer at all”.

As for the Brazilian numbers, Elias even managed to inject new life into the over-familiar Girl From Ipanema at the very end. Desafinado and So Danco Samba skipped merrily. Por Causa de Voce shimmers in the dark