LONDON TIMES REVIEW (live concert) 4/24/08
Eliane Elias at Ronnie Scott’s, W1 by Clive Davis
Some people would prefer to make claims for the grandiose Brad Mehldau, but in terms of swing and emotional subtlety Eliane Elias’s trio is very hard to beat at the moment. (I leave the great Ahmad Jamal out of the equation, as he is clearly in a league of his own.) Her work has reached new depths in recent years. The turning point, perhaps, was the unfussy set of Jobim vocals she recorded about a decade ago. Since then, Elias has grown in confidence as a singer.
It’s a sign of her growing appeal that the “house full” sign was on display for her opening night at Ronnie Scott’s. The Brazilian did not disappoint. She and her partners – the bassist Marc Johnson and the drummer Adam Nussbaum –are at the top of their form right now. Even some alarming creaking noises from the house piano in the closing stages could not derail one of the most explosive performances I have heard in the past year.
The ghost of Bill Evans loomed large – naturally enough, as he was the subject of Elias’s recent tribute disc, Something for You. That most gentle of pieces Waltz for Debby was dispatched with absolute authority, and the trio shifted to warp speed on a miraculous treatment of You and the Night and the Music. Nussbaum’s playing, in particular, was a master class in controlled aggression.
Earlier, Elias had reprised that alternative Brazilian national anthem Chega de Saudade. My only complaint about the performance of Jobim’s Fotografia – a beautiful song that never quite gets played as often as it deserves – was that Elias sang it in English first, and added part of the Portuguese lyrics almost as an afterthought. But on such a satisfying night, that is the smallest of quibbles.
2007 JVC Newport Jazz Festival (Live concert ) by Ken Francklin
Fort Adams State Park, Newport, Rhode Island
August 12, 2007
The spirit of late great jazz masters lives on through many of those who were influenced by them, and the 2007 JVC Newport Jazz Festival made those connections in a huge way. It was evident in a succession of bands taking to three stages at Fort Adams State Park on the Newport waterfront.
It was as if Dizzy, Monk, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Mingus, Getz, Jobim and Bill Evans were hovering overhead at times, smiling at the way their musical offspring were moving the music forward…
“Pianist Eliane Elias’s Bill Evans homage with Marc Johnson and drummer Billy Hart was stunning.”
Her trio received wild applause after every tune they played — with standing ovations for at least three. And there was one big surprise. Elias used her Newport appearance to premiere a beautiful and typically introspective ballad, a new tune that she said Evans was developing but had never recorded or published prior to his death in 1980. She has titled it “Here is Something for You.” Later, Elias said the tune was one of four previously unheard Evans working pieces that were on a cassette tape she received from Johnson, the last bassist to work in the late pianist’s trio. Evans fans will be the richer for it if those pieces are included on a new recording she plans with Johnson and Hart.
(Ken Franckling is an award-winning jazz writer and photographer who has been covering the mainstream jazz scene for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.)
Something For You: Eliane Elias Sings and Plays Bill Evans
Eliane Elias | Blue Note Records (2008)
By Dan McClenaghan
Everybody digs Bill Evans, the pianist who changed the face of the piano trio in jazz with his Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Riverside Records, 1961) and Waltz for Debby (Riverside Records, 1961). These were the albums that brought a then unheard of level of interaction between the pianist and his trio mates, bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian.
Things haven’t been the same since. There are countless piano trios that have been influenced by that groundbreaking group.
Pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias, growing up in her native Brazil, absorbed the sounds of that famous Evans trio. Returning to Blue Note Records after a seven year absence from the label, the artist offers up a heartfelt tribute to Evans with Something for You.
It’s to Elias’ credit that she brings her own piano voice to the set. Rather than play like Bill Evans, she gets into his spirit, and has her own things to say. She has a more gregarious approach to songs he wrote, including “Waltz for Debby” and “Blue in Green,” as well as those he was associated with like “My Foolish Heart” and “You and the Night and the Music.”She is more given to brief sparkling flourishes, and injects more emotion into Evans’ cerebral mode of play.
Elias sings on six of the seventeen cuts. With a slight Portuguese accent and the occasional hush in the delivery, comparisons to Astrud Gilberto are inevitable. But Elias’ voice is richer, more emotionally resonant, and is absolutely beguiling on “Minha” and “But Beautiful/Here’s That Rainy Day.”
“Here Is Something For You,” and “Evanesque” are previously unreleased Evans tunes discovered by bassist Marc Johnson (Elias’ husband). Johnson was the bassist in the pianist’s last trio and, just prior to his death in 1980, Evans had given him a cassette of things he was working on. Elias treats these classic Evans works with care, with “Evanesque,”featuring some particularly searching piano work.
Something For You is a gorgeous tribute to one of the giants of jazz piano.
All Music Guide Review by Ken Dryden,
4 ½ star review
Eliane Elias’ return to the Blue Note label after a decade working elsewhere is a triumph. This salute to the late pianist Bill Evans, one of her favorite players, explores a number of songs he recorded, including both standards and originals. Evans’ bassist from his final trio, Marc Johnson, is not only a long-time collaborator with Elias but also her husband; drummer Joey Baron rounds out the band. While Elias is influenced by Evans’ playing style, his arrangements are only a launching pad for her approach to each tune; never does she sound like an obvious Evans clone. Her lush take of “My Foolish Heart” features Johnson on the late Scott LaFaro’s bass (the talented Evans sideman who died in a 1961 car wreck just ten days after recording the landmark sets with the pianist at the Village Vanguard). “Evanesque” is a newly discovered work that came from a cassette given to Johnson by Evans, so Elias adjusted the work by incorporating new material with his conception. The freewheeling take of “Solar” is a masterful group improvisation upon the Miles Davis theme. Elias’ moving ballad “After All” is a sincere tribute to Evans. She has also built confidence in her singing over time; always gifted with a tender, sensuous voice, Elias glides gently over Johnson’s walking introduction to “A Sleepin’ Bee” and offers an equally delicate “Walt for Debby.” She wrote words to Evans’ previously unknown “Here Is Something for You,” which was also discovered on the cassette given to Johnson. It is heard in two versions, a solo version with voice and piano where Elias mostly closely mirrors Evans’ playing, then the original rehearsal by Evans, which segues into an excerpt of Elias’ new version. The Japanese version of this delightful CD features an added track, “Re: Person I Knew.”
Brazilian Eliane Elias Recalls the Aura of Bill Evans
Written by Bruce Gilman
Sunday, 30 March 2008
Comprehensive study of the classical piano repertoire, a strong attraction to the theories behind Lennie Tristano’s distinctive musical practices, and work with theorist George Russell, helped Bill Evans apply theories of harmonic reduction and evoke his own distinctive sound and approach. Recordings paying tribute to Evans began showing up shortly after the pianist’s death. Even artists who were far removed from his musical values – adherence to acoustic instruments, old popular songs, and chord-based improvisations – joined in to venerate the departed keyboard icon.
The idea of recording the music of Bill Evans, multiple versions of which have already been released and surely heard, isn’t a new one, yet the harmonic language and continuity of this music can be elusive, requiring an artist of rare gift to play it “from within” at the same time as negotiating its finger-knotting intricacies. Eliane Elias is such an artist. She has intellect and imagination in perfect balance, a fabulous touch, great rhythmic élan, an improvisatory zeal, and swings like few others. She also has a new CD that brings Evans’s music vividly to life: Something for You: Eliane Elias Sings and Plays Bill Evans. For this recording Elias combines fine harmonic sensibility with emotional subtlety to produce fresh reinterpretations of familiar songs as well as one cogently personal original. Her constantly inquiring mind and love for the musical philosophy of Bill Evans, allied to her ability to extract a beautiful and personal sound from the piano, provides listeners with an opportunity to reinvestigate Evans and to think anew about this music, as much through the mind of a poet-philosopher as that of a pianist, to get inside the head of Evans in his diverse moods.
Central to the formulation of this CD are two ideas that come together. One is the trio concept that was touched off by Oscar Peterson and exploded by Bill Evans. The other is an awareness of the way Evans continually moved forward at the same rate as he reached back for groundbreaking ideas, his pianistic thinking often running contrary to the jazz trends of the day. With bass player Marc Johnson, a member of the final Evans trio, and drummer Joey Baron, who tailors his phrasing to answer and propel soloists, poetry and virtuosity are held in perfect poise. These are musicians who listen and respond by taking wing into areas of mind and imagination. It might have seemed that Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, and others had exhausted the possibilities suggested by Bill Evans, but Elias, Johnson, and Baron are perfect companions for a venture into this music. Indeed, the sprit of Bill Evans is everywhere. On the whole collection, there are simply no stretches of playing where the musicians are vamping in wait for something to happen, never a feeling that one member of the trio is off on a musical quest of his own. It is a genuine trio affair: the arrangements involve the whole ensemble; Johnson and Baron are fully in sympathy with Elias’s idiosyncratic vision of Bill Evans.
The trio chemistry is extraordinary and the depth of interpretation always surprising, no matter how many times you play these selections. In this context, Elias’s singing is helped by that rare empathy that exists among consummate musicians who obviously love the chosen material.
What impresses most is their devotion to the material at hand. Every tune has some moment of illumination immediately conveyed. Above all, this disc is a celebration of sonority. Elias’s pianistic and musical attributes make her uncannily receptive and responsive to Evans’s ideas, an inspiration reciprocated, for Evans’s ideas provide the perfect backdrop for her harmonic sense.
Opening her program with an up-tempo account of “You and the Night and the Music,” Elias echoes the imagination and excitement that Evans combined so effortlessly at his peak, the plasticity of phrasing, the supple ease of note placement, and the variety of note choices. Johnson’s brief solo, extremely alert and sensitive, has a subtle development, while Baron, using points of punctuation, offsets the soloist in a most provocative light.
The CD’s title track, “Here Is Something for You,” was developed (as was the concept for the entire CD) from previously unissued material that Johnson found on a cassette Evans had given him and makes this CD especially valuable. Elias, accompanying herself, seems to be singing as much to herself as to the listener.
She has a small voice and a relatively rudimentary vocal technique, still she sensibly relies on art, not artifice, for her interpretation. The way she interlocks with Johnson on the drummerless “A Sleepin’ Bee” is sensitive and free-spirited. Indeed, the hand-in-glove interaction is a classic example of a formidable paring.
George Gershwin’s “But Not for Me” shows Elias knows just when to pull back and let the melody speak for itself, and when to push out into some spirited solo work. “Waltz for Debby,” a tune Evans wrote in the early fifties, is familiar to his fans the world over and perhaps his most famous piece.
On this portrait of Evans’s young niece, Baron emerges as an imaginative, sensitive painter of rhythmic sound, his brush work exciting some sparkling interplay among a trio that displays an underlying sense of calm joy and a vitality of line that hums with imaginative life.
The theme of Evans’s “Five” is a study in staggered time in the manner of Thelonious Monk. Though Elias does not deliver it in the staccato fashion that Monk would have used, she conveys a definite personality of her own. The harmonic underpinning strongly suggests Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” a tune that has supplied the framework for more than its fair share of jazz “originals.” Johnson gets most of the solo space here, closely followed by Elias’s varying the temperature by trading “fours” with Baron.
Elias’s chords really resonate and breath on “Blue in Green,” the ballad evolving from a challenge Miles Davis gave Evans for the 1959 Kind of Blue sessions to compose a tune using scales that were difficult to integrate. Whereas Evans played it as a dance of the spirit within a deep inner stillness – spare and brooding, but lyrical, Elias’s muscular, blues-based overhaul of the tune, shows how passionately she is involved in its inner workings. Her distinctive touch ballasted by Johnson’s firmly delineated bass and Baron’s infectious rhythmic subtlety is a telling demonstration of group thinking and feeling.
On “Detour Ahead,” using space and harmonic lucidity, Elias reveals emotional depth through restraint and implication. Rarely does she use her undeniable technical facility for more than a few moments of mind-popping display. She is much more interested in using the piano as the lead voice in her group’s interplay, directing the listener’s imagination through careful articulation of light and shade.
“Minha,” which Evans recorded with Johnson, receives a wholly engaged and engaging rhapsodic caress from Elias, singing in Portuguese and working faultlessly to balance pensive introspection with a romantic manner in which her honesty and sincerity is evident.
“My Foolish Heart,” is a heartbreakingly beautiful reading. Johnson, playing Scott LaFaro’s bass, anchors Elias’s chords in theme statements, Baron provides impetus and rhythmic color, and Elias, working at an inspired level, makes her instrument sing, effortlessly invoking a range of emotions associated with the song.
Following that feast of sensitive playing, “But Beautiful” / “Here’s That Rainy Day,” is virtually a feature for Elias’s voice, and unlike most super-hip vocalists, she sings it simply and with understanding. “I Love My Wife” and “For Nenette” emerge as wonderfully rapt soliloquies for the solo pianist that demonstrate the vast imagination and technique Elias possesses.
Having listened carefully to Johnson’s aforementioned cassette, and in particular to Evans’s lines of musical thought, Elias recomposed and titled a tune “Evanesque.” Creating tension, unity, and interest through rhythmic displacement over the bar lines and within a relatively narrow range of notes, the tune is in design and general structure not too dissimilar in character to the material Evans had been developing.
Bill Evans recorded Miles Davis’s “Solar” numerous times (once in Rome with Marc Johnson). Here, a long, winding introduction, impressionist tag section, and convoluted phrase lengths, show the trio to be a remarkable collaboration with a palpable delight in discovery going on all the time.
An element of reflective plaintiveness is central to Elias’s original “After All.” Recalling his work with Evans, Marc Johnson shows how interactive and contrapuntal a bass line can be without totally abandoning its supportive function; Baron exhibits the poignant skill of an introspective, yet romantic minimalist.
The disc ends eerily with “Introduction to ‘Here Is Something for You,’” which is really two tracks representing an early phase of this project: Evans playing one of his last pieces (Johnson’s tape) segueing into Elias completing his phrase with an abridged recap of her piano introduction and lyrics in homage to Evans, a stirring bit of fantasy that, alas, stops after a paltry two minutes and thirteen seconds.
This retrospective to Bill Evans contains an avalanche of freshly-conceived thoughts on a well-chosen repertoire. Cohesive and resourceful with consistently inspired solo work, the disc finds a trio digging in deep while staying logically on its directional rails. Elias’s development of the Evans aesthetic can be readily gauged against the frame of reference provided by tunes whose connective tissue, conceptual and musical – the dialogue Bill Evans carried on with not only the past, but also the present and future – emerges with the first listening.
Time and again the listener is caught up in Elias’s ever-deeper dissection of Evans’s ideas and taken by surprise by familiar material. The tracks, remarkably short compared to the long blowing sessions favored by most jazz musicians today, may seem at first like a grab bag of tunes, juxtaposed in dramatic motivic contrast, but they are, quintessentially, of a single consciousness. And it is Elias’s supreme achievement to understand and re-create, with her own insight, precisely this quality.
Journalist, musician, and educator Bruce Gilman has served as music editor of Brazzil magazine, an online international publication based in Los Angeles, for more than a decade. During that time he has written scores of articles on the most influential Brazilian artists and genres, program notes for festivals in the United States and abroad, numerous CD liner notes, and an essay, “The Politics of Samba,” that appeared in the Georgetown Journal.
He is the recipient of three government grants that allowed him to research traditional music in China, India, and Brazil. His articles on Brazilian music have been translated and published in Dutch, German, Portuguese, Serbian, and Spanish.
All About Jazz New York , January 2008
Pianist Bill Evans (1929-1980) is one iconic jazz artist whose legacy suffers from the plethora of recordings of his work available. By releasing boxes and boxes of live recordings, some done when he was on heroin or cocaine, the clarity of his best work and his artistic greatness are obscured and muddled. It was only the junkie Evans who was schmaltzy and maudlin. The artistic Evans was inventive within formal structures, precise not fuzzy, a propulsive thinker at fast tempos, a meditative modernist at slow ones. That legacy is exemplified by his 1959 breakthrough Everybody Digs Bill Evans and creatively honored by Brazilian pianist Eliane Elias on Something for You.
Evans hadn’t developed the interactive trio concept he explored in the ’60s when Everybody Digs was recorded in late 1958. On this date he was joined by bassist Sam Jones and drummer Philly Joe Jones (with whom he’d worked with Miles Davis), a robust rhythm section that brings out Evans’ swinging percussive side. On bop numbers like “Minority” and “Oleo” Evans’ touch is as hard and precise as a lapidary’s hammer, his solo ideas built in keen, boldly faceted lines. There’s a limpid lyricism to his trio ballads too: the minimalist chiming of “What Is There To Say?” and acetic parsing of melody on “Young and Foolish”. “Night and Day” is a half-Latin/half-swing romp that finds Evans flirting with dissonance. And his great, Zen koan-like solo “Peace Piece”, the centerpiece of the original album, can now be compared to his solo version of “Some Other Time”, included as a bonus track, for which “Peace Piece” was originally conceived as a prelude.
Something for You is not only a heartfelt and pitch-perfect tribute to Evans, but also a personal triumph for Elias, one of the strongest albums of her career. She has distilled the best aspects of Evans’ style into her own, working with tunes either written or performed by Evans and adding her sultry, suede-smooth vocals to 6 of the 16 tracks. One of those vocals is her lyric to “Here’s Something for You”, a tune her bassist and husband Marc Johnson found on a cassette he’d been given by Evans when he was in the pianist’s last trio. Elias also fashions a trio (drummer Joey Baron completes the group) number from another tune off the cassette, “Evanesque”, adding new changes and an Evans ploy – displacing time over bar lines – to cycle a lovely floating feel into something harder. The Evans trio sound is evoked on a propulsive “You and the Night and the Music” as well as in the trio’s double-timing of “Here’s That Rainy Day” after a slow, vocal medley half of “But Beautiful”. But Elias brings a Brazilian rhythmic feel to Evans’ “Blue in Green” and a freewheeling, personal trio conception to “Solar”. “I Love My Wife” and “For Nenette”, from Evans’ New Conversations, wherein he overdubbed solo piano parts, are delivered as straight piano solos, capturing the probing modernist side of Evans on the former and his rhapsodic bent on the latter.
Something for You: Eliane Elias Plays and Sings Bill Evans
Brazilian pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias returns to Blue Note after a seven-year hiatus with this wonderful tribute to Bill Evans. Elias cut 16 tunes backed by husband/bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron, and the variety of interpretive approaches assayed by Elias and her collaborators is, in itself, a highlight. Some are terrific trio instrumental, such as “You and the Night and the Music,” “Five” and “Blue in Green.” while solo efforts “I Love My Wife” and “For Nenette” highlight Elias’ keyboard virtuosity. She delivers several vocal performances, including a lovely rendition of “Here Is Something for You.” a wholly simpatico “Minha” (one of the only Brazilian songs Evans performed) and a very cool cover of “Detour Ahead.”