All Music Guide
When one considers the entirety of pianist-composer Eliane Elias' works on Blue Note Records, several things stand out. First, she is the longest signing of any artist on Blue Note Records since its revival in 1984. Secondly is her love of the piano trio. Finally is the personal and emotional connection she has with all the material she performs. Whether itis the music of her native Brazil, the jazz standards she grew up with, or her own compositions that are inspired by all of her musical influences, Elias expresses her passions with a disarmingly honest clarity that immediately makes an emotional connection with the listener.
All of these elements are at play in Elias' latest recording for Blue Note, Everything I Love. The 13-tune collection, a love letter to the different jazz styles and musicians who have inspired her, includes songs both familiar and offbeat as well as a pair of originals, all performed by a rotating pair of stellar trios. "The piano trio is my first love," Elias says, "and is my favorite vehicle for expressing myself as a player and improviser."
Here, she divides the performances between two rhythm sections. The top-shelf team of bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Jack DeJohnette and the next-generation crew of bassist Christian McBride and drummer Carl Allen.
After several Brazilian-inspired recordings in recent years and the GRAMMY-nominated CD with pianist Herbie Hancock, Solos & Duets, Elias, on this recording, focuses on the jazz and standard tradition that has been the foundation of her musical life. On Everything I Love, she makes a direct connection to her love of jazz, confirming a life-long passion for bebop, hard swinging, inventive harmony, and the American songbook.
"Bowing to Bud" is her original tribute to piano giant and inspiration Bud Powell, a rousing, good-natured romp with a musically serious side that closes out with an uplifting shuffle feel. Charles Mingus gets a nod with a stout version of "Nostalgia In Times Square" that features bassist McBride and Elias in a particularly bluesy frame of mind. Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody 'N' You," with McBride and Allen, demonstrates how Elias' remarkable technique and innovative gifts intensify at fast tempos.
"Capturing the live performance feeling on this studio-recorded disc was a high priority," says Elias. "There's bebop, ballads, and free improvisations that travel in different directions. The idea was to present some of what happens when we play live. Most, if not all of the pieces were first takes."
Most spontaneously is "If I Should Lose You." Elias' pensive introduction, backed by DeJohnette's impressionistic snare and tom-tom rolls, reminiscent of his work in the piano trio of Keith Jarrett, came at the beginning of the session when the engineer was getting sounds in the control room. "We simply started playing," Elias confesses, "and it developed into 'If I Should Lose You'. Fortunately the engineer was taping and when we heard it back we were very excited." Elias elucidates further; "Jazz is so much about creating something new, right now that has never before existed. The incredible exaltation one feels either as a player or a listener when you are in the presence of something being created on this level is simply indescribable." Other introductions flow into "Alone Together" and "Autumn Leavesi; preludes that stand on their own as musical statements yet lead into the tunes without obvious suggestion or contrivance.
Gracing a number of tunes is Elias' now familiar, languid voice, a vocal instrument that in tone and phrasing seems to blend the spirits of Astrud Gilberto and Billie Holiday. "The Beat Of My Heart" ("The lyrics go by so quickly," she laughs) is a bit of a tongue twister at a pitter-patter pace which is also accompanied by the guitar work of Rodney Jones. "They Say It's Wonderful," with Johnson and DeJohnette, is a marvel of self-accompaniment, voice, and piano responding like lovers. "I Fall In Love Too Easily" (also with Johnson and DeJohnette) has been a favorite song of hers since she first heard it on Miles Davis' Seven Steps To Heaven. The lyric from the final vocal track, George Gershwin's "Blah, Blah, Blah," could easily have replaced 'yadda, yadda, yadda' in the Seinfeld episode. However, the beautiful musical treatment here by Eliane softens the sarcasm of this Ira Gerswhin lyric and reveals a sensual and poetic tenderness.
There are two classic Cole Porter songs, "I Love You" and the title track. Says Elias, "You can really sense the joy Marc, Jack, and I feel playing together and hear the spirit of fun and exuberance in the music." The other of the two originals, "That's All It Was," with Johnson and DeJohnette, arguably contains her most poignant playing. The wistful lines, coming in variations that reflect her Brazilian, classical and jazz backgrounds, suggest chance encounters, sweet regrets, or other melancholy circumstances left to the imagination.
"The piano is for me a direct conduit for expressing my deepest emotions; it is the most pure and honest expression of my innermost self. I loved making this recording. I feel we really captured the connectedness we have between each other as musicians, and to our instruments, and the love we share when making music."
# 1 Gavin Magazine Jazz Charts -April 2000