There’s no question about it: pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias is amazingly versatile. On May 28, 2013, Concord Jazz presents Elias’ I Thought About You (A Tribute To Chet Baker), an album that offers her personalized spin on the work of a key American jazz artist while spotlighting her connection to the singer-instrumentalist tradition (international release dates may vary). It fully demonstrates the range of interests that Elias’ art now boasts, and arrives with a statement of purpose: jazz repertoire can sound totally fresh when delivered with ingenuity and passion.
Long known for her native feel of Brazilian music, this new disc truly demonstrates Elias’ expertise in yet another realm: an interpreter of American standards. An expressive, swinging singer and insightful instrumentalist and arranger, on I Thought About You she thoughtfully switches the size and approach of her impressive ensemble from track to track, yielding to each tune’s inner logic.
Her choice of musicians underscores her decision to have her music move in various ways. Along with guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves, drummer Rafael Barata and percussionist Marivaldo dos Santos unite with Elias and husband, esteemed bassist Marc Johnson, for a few of the Brazil-slanted tracks. The other core band members are the always impressive guitarist Steve Cardenas and the exquisite drummer Victor Lewis. If you hear a deep chemistry between the bass and drums, remind yourself that Johnson and Lewis were once part of Stan Getz’s most limber rhythm section. At various points, Elias’ former husband Randy Brecker drops in to add some of his incisive brass magic to the mix.
By and large, Elias has turned to pieces from the Great American Songbook that have been associated with Baker. Some are swaggering and bluesy, some are poignant and graceful, some are intimate and bittersweet – each is addressed like the jewel that it is.
“When selecting the repertoire, I chose songs that portrayed a wide spectrum of Chet’s work,” she says, “not only the ballads for which he was best known, but also the mid tempo and up tempo pieces he performed with such fluidity and inventiveness throughout his career.”