On November 4, 2017, Grammy-winning Brazilian pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias walks out onto Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall stage wearing a striking sequined gown, all smiles and sexiness, settles onto her piano bench and – with Marc Johnson on bass and Joe Labarbera on drums – slinks into a gorgeous tribute to pianist Bill Evans. No singing just yet, only free-flowing jazz including a “finished” rendition of a work that Evans had begun just before his death in 1980, “Here’s Something for You,” beginning with film footage of Mr. Evans’ evolution of the piece and seamlessly segueing into Ms. Elias’ own performance.
After intermission the real party starts as Ms. Elias – now clad in a skintight, shoulderless black dress, crimson arm-warmers, and matching red pumps – starts the fire with the classic Ary Barroso composition “Brazil (Aquarela do Brasil)” (which I first came to know through the Ritchie Family’s disco version in 1975), followed by selections from her award-winning album Made in Brazil and her latest, Dance of Time. An exquisite Chet Baker number, “Embraceable You,” then up-and-jumping again with more Ary Barroso.
Finally, a musical voyage through Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Desafinado,” the song that, as Eliane explains, brought bossa nova from Brazil to the States in 1959. And to me in 1995, via one of my first ever CD purchases, The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook, with its cool, colorful cover and jazz artists’ interpretations of numbers like – besides “Desafinado” – “Só Danço Samba,” “Wave,” “Agua de Beber,” and “Chega de Saudade.” Oh and the original hit that nuzzled its way out of radios tuned to the local “easy listening” station in 1964, “The Girl from Ipanema.” This evening Eliane Elias certainly embodies the smooth seduction of the vocalist on that one, Astrud Gilberto.
Joining Eliane on the second-set journey are guitarist Rubens de la Corte, drummer Rafael Barata, and, once again, bassist Marc Johnson – who treats the audience to an emotional and otherworldly moment when he switches from fingers to bow on his instrument. Mr. Johnson also played with Bill Evans from 1978 to 1980 – and is the husband of Ms. Elias.
Encore! But of course, as another extended Elias working of a Jobim standard, “Só Danço Samba,” pours forth and concludes one of the most beautiful Jazz at Lincoln Center shows ever. Viva Brazil!
images courtesy whatshouldwedo.com, allmusic.com, amazon.com, discogs.com, theiridium.com, monipag.com
YouTube videos courtesy bluenotefrance, Concord Music, steve3ri, Urief Urief, Serdar Yasar, Jan Hammer, ru.vocal