On duet pieces Eliane Elias appears on the left channel and Herbie Hancock on the right. Duets recorded at Hit Factory, New York, November 18 1994. Solo piano recorded at Elias Studio, Sao Paulo, December 1994.
Solo pieces recorded on Vladimir Horowitz's Steinway & Sons.
Eliane Elias plays Steinway & Sons Pianos.
No overdubbing was used in the recording of this album.
"Eliane is a rare talent. She is of a new generation of aggressive pianists that attack music like a lioness attacking its prey, at the same time expressing a tenderness within the core of her passion that at times has brought me to tears. She never seems to run out of inventive ideas. It was a great joy for me to join her one to one as dueling pianists bent not on competing but challenging each other to reach deep down for shapes and colors to construct a musical painting."
- Herbie Hancock
This release is a change of pace for Eliane Elias. Instead of interpreting Brazilian songs, fusion, or modern bop, Elias shows off her classical technique on a set of acoustic solos plus six duets with Herbie Hancock. She really digs into the standards (sometimes sounding a little like Keith Jarrett) and creates some fairly free and unexpected ideas while putting the accent on lyricism. Some of the music is introspective, and there are wandering sections, but the net results are logical and enjoyable. As for the duets, Elias and Hancock mostly stay out of each other's way, which is an accomplishment when one considers that the four-part "Messages" is a series of free improvisations. There are playful spots (particularly on the adventurous ten-minute rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight") and, since Elias knows Hancock's style well (and was clearly thrilled to have him on the date), their collaborations work quite well. A successful outing.
-Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
========= from the cover ==========
For pianists, working solo is the ultimate test. There's no one else to share the credit or the blame, no side-men to help channel your flow of ideas. The only well to draw from is yours: It's up to you to make sure the bucket is full and the water is fresh.
Eliane Elias has been to the well. The latest in her series of stellar Blue Note albums is the first to capture her in the act of unaccompanied improvisation. Though her previous releases leave no doubt about her formidable technique and creativity, we never really got the complete picture of who she is and what she has to say on her own.
With Solos And Duets, Eliane accepts the challenge that all pianists face sooner or later. From Tatum to Jarrett, the masters eventually find themselves alone in the studio with the instrument on which they began and the tape rolling. The best players emerge triumphant, their stature enhanced by the experience. So it is with Elias, who proves herself an artist of distinction, fully formed, with supreme technique and a completely original voice, that rare pianist who doesn't sound like any other, who can be identified after just a couple of seconds of listening.
The Elias that we see here is primarily a linear player. Her ideas come in long streams of single notes, punctuated occasionally by chords but basically allowed to flow freely through the hills and valleys delineated by the tune. Though often allowed to develop in a free rhythmic setting, unimpeded by a regular beat, these lines generate a tremendous sense of propulsion. On "The Masquerade Is Over" and "All The Things You Are," they dart and dance with such independence that it sounds at times like two pianists playing together.
We also encounter a thoughtful side to Elias. The opening cut, "Autumn Leaves," begins with a stormy, almost Bartokian motif, but after a few moments Elias moves beyond it into a ruminative examination of the song's structure, with skillful reharmonization highlighting the second half of each verse and a moody introspection that's appropriate to the title. Similarly, her rendition of "Joy Spring" begins with a sprightly presentation of the familiar three opening notes, only to abruptly transform them into a motivic springboard, travelling in and out of "Have You Met Miss Jones" for an unexpectedly reflective passage, which sets the stage for a free and revealing treatment of the tunes. On "Asa Branca" written by the creator of Baiao, Luis Gonzaga, Elias brings us the rhythm and the music of her homeland, where her improvisations at times remind us of the illustrious Brazilian classical composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos.
If there's any higher hurdle than playing solo piano, it's playing duo with another pianist. Elias does this as well, with Herbie Hancock, probably the most challenging and stimulating duo player a pianist could hope for. Their collaborations on Solos And Duets run the gamut, from total extemporization in "Messages (part 1 through 4)" to a wonderful recitation of "Just Enough," played according to tradition, with each taking a solo over the other's accompaniment; it's the only tune on the album done all the way over a clear and steady 4/4 pulse.
But their version of "The Way You Look Tonight" may be a landmark in duo piano history. Elias and Hancock hit the opening notes at full speed. They present the theme coherently, though neither can resist illuminating it with fiery asides and quick variations. From the extended chorded tradition into the bridge, their harmonies blossom into complex voicings which, amazingly, never collide. The structure then develops into the kind of free interplay that has exposed the limitations of many a lesser pianist. Here, though, it's handled the way it's supposed to be, with each player listening to the other, making space, cueing simultaneous flurries, and occasionally nodding back to the theme.
At age 35, Elias can look forward to decades of fruitful work. She's a restless soul, impatient with repeating herself and eager to explore. Over the past few years she's utilized synthesizers in contemporary jazz settings, released an album of classical repertoire, several jazz trio albums and resurrected elements of her Brazilian musical roots. Who knows what surprises lie ahead?
Still, no matter where Elias's muse takes her, Solos And Duets will be remembered as a watershed disc. This is where she first stood on her own, for all to see. This is where she claims her place as a jazz pianist of the highest order.
-Robert L. Doerschuk (Editor-In-Chief Musician Magazine)