Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Eliane Elias

Eliane Elias (Photo: Philippe Salomon)
Eliane Elias (Photo: Philippe Salomon)

Brazilian jazz pianist, singer, arranger and songwriter Eliane Elias returned to her native land for her new album, Made in Brazil, which she released last Tuesday with Concord Music Group, and now she’s bringing Brazil to the masses. And she’ll be bringing Brazil to Washington,D.C. on April 14, when she performs at The Hamilton.

“It’s the first time, after all these years, that I’ve recorded in Brazil after not living there for 33 years,” Elias said. “[My heart] never left the country, my DNA never changed, but I always recorded in the United States. And it was such a different vibe, a different energy, just to record there around the Brazilians in Brazil.”

Elias, who was nominated for a Grammy in 1995 for a piano duo she did with Herbie Hancock, said that she was inspired by writing in Brazil and that’s the natural direction the album took. “When I was writing in Brazil, I was writing so much music – I was so inspired – and the music was definitely going in the direction that it did,” she said.

She’s recorded Brazilian music before, she admits, but this record is particularly special to her when it comes to carrying on the rich tradition of Brazilian jazz, she said, as she got excited about the instruments – and artists – she employs on the album. “It’s really special. Every recording seems to have a life of its own and this one, from the very start, it’s like when you have those babies that are special from the beginning,” Elias said. “This one felt like that.”

Elias’ purpose on this record was to honor the history of Brazilian jazz by bringing it into the context of the modern age. Among the things she did to accomplish this was collaborating with Roberto Menescal, a legendary composer, producer, guitarist and vocalist who was vital to the founding to Bossa Nova. She recorded three of Menescal’s songs for the album, one of which she said will be an iTunes bonus track.

“It was beautiful. We shared some real tender moments,” Elias said. “To have the composer there…I’ve always liked the songs of his that I recorded.” She also recorded a rendition of the famous Brazilian tune “Aquarela do Brasil,” which is known in the English-speaking world as “Brazil” and was written by Ary Barroso, one of Brazil’s most successful songwriters in the first half of the 20th century.

“The song ‘Brazil’ represents the country, the beauty of the people, the beauty of the music that we have,” she said. Finally, she recorded two tracks by another legendary Brazilian composer, Antonio Carlos Jobim, probably the most widely-known of the musicians who Elias attempts to honor on Made in Brazil.

Elias has performed and recorded with Jobim and recorded songs of his in the past, but one of the two songs she put her spin on for her new album – “Aguas de Marco (Waters of March)” – probably most perfectly accomplishes what she’s trying to do. Recorded with an a capella gospel group Take 6, the song, which was named the all-time best Brazilian song in a poll of 200 Brazilian journalists, musicians and other artists conducted by Brazil’s leading daily newspaper Fohla de Sao Paulo, is both timeless and modern.

Elias said that she was proud of the arrangement she wrote of the song and the job Take 6 did on the track. She said she wishes Jobim, with whom she said she was very close, could hear her rendition of the song.

“The album has Brazilian DNA, but it’s not a retro album – it’s the music of today,” Elias said. “It’s special to me, the people who’ve heard it so far, like Menescal and the other guests on the album, everyone’s excited. The company’s excited and we’re all very excited!”

• For more information about Eliane Elias, visit elianeelias.com.