Recorded in Brazil, the March 24 release features Randy Brecker, Mike Mainieri, Mark Kibble, Amilton Godoy, Toquinho and João Bosco
Two years after seducing fans with her GRAMMY®-winning Made in Brazil (Best Latin Jazz Album), the internationally acclaimed pianist, singer, composer and arranger Eliane Elias returns with the ebullient Dance of Time, set for release on March 24, 2017 via Concord Jazz.
The former disc commemorated a homecoming for her; it was the first time she recorded in her native country of Brazil since moving to the United States in 1981. JazzTimes magazine praised Made in Brazil as “a warm embrace,” while Jazziz magazine wrote, “Surrounded by Brazilian-bred luminaries, Elias brilliantly captures the complexities of human emotions in a seamless display that reconciles past and present, loss and fulfillment, melancholy and bliss, all while celebrating her homecoming.”
Dance of Time, like its predecessor, was recorded in Brazil. “Recording in Brazil was such a high,” explains Elias as to why she returned to the country. But thematically, Dance of Time is its own beautiful beast. Whereas Made in Brazil was a tantalizing toast to three generations of Brazilian composers, Dance of Time’s themes are multifold.
With the presence of extraordinary guests including pianist Amilton Godoy plus singer-songwriting guitarists João Bosco and Toquinho—from Brazil—along with trumpeter Randy Brecker, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri and singer Mark Kibble—from the United States, Dance of Time celebrates certain people who were integral in Elias’ early artistic journey in both Brazil and the U.S. “I wanted to include musicians who were very important in the start of my career,” Elias says. “Dance of Time represents the spectrum of my career from the very beginning until now.”
Dance of Time also applauds the samba, a genre originating from Bahia, via Africa. Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the first samba ever recorded and registered, “Pelo Telefone.” “Samba is the most authentic and contagious dance rhythm of Brazil, and there is no better place in the world to capture this music. I just had to be in Brazil to make Dance of Time.”
“On this record, I play and sing more sambas than I have ever recorded on an album,” Elias states. Indeed, she gets the party started in the most ingenious manner with her sublime makeover of the Brazilian classic “O Pato.” João Gilberto was the first to release the song in 1960 (on his Capitol Records LP Brazil's Brilliant João Gilberto). In Elias’ deft hands, the song’s rhythmic pulse transforms from bossa nova to samba as her percussive piano accompaniment propels the song forward alongside her rhythm section’s sauntering thrust. Elias embellishes her piano playing with pliant jazz phrases in a style that is absolutely her own. While singing and swinging the vocal melody with her sumptuous voice, her left hand pulsing a syncopating rhythm and her right hand flying over the keys, Elias tells short stories in her own inimitable way.
Next, Elias explores the 1932 classic show tune “You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me,” a song famously rendered by Frank Sinatra in 1956. By supplying the song with a graceful bossa nova groove, Elias makes a subtle nod to Francis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim, the monumental duet LP between the two music icons, which celebrates its 50th anniversary. Elias’ rendition also features some glimmering vibraphone accompaniment from Mainieri.
Elias’ professional relationship with Mainieri dates back to 1981. When she was recording her first demo, Mainieri offered to produce it. Their partnership blossomed further when she joined the Mainieri-led jazz ensemble Steps Ahead. She recorded the group’s first album and toured internationally. Mainieri appears again on Elias’ amorous bossa nova “Little Paradise,” on which he underscores her husky voice and dreamy piano melodicism with aquatic vibraphone colors.
Mark Kibble—of the award-winning jazz-gospel vocal sextet Take 6—guests on the 1944 Brazilian classic “Copacabana.” Her creative arranging skills are in evidence as she modernizes “Copacabana” with new harmonies, modulations and subtle backbeats, which provide an R&B sensibility that eventually morphs into a samba. Elias serenades the lyrics atop her gorgeous piano accompaniment while Kibble’s multi-tracked vocal harmonies insulate the song bracingly.
Elias reveals that she and Kibble have admired each other’s work since the mid-’80s: “I envisioned vocal harmonies on a few tunes, and I could not imagine anyone other than Mark Kibble to provide the background vocals,” Elias says. “His contributions are absolutely gorgeous. I couldn’t be happier with the results.”
Kibble’s vocal magic appears on Elias’ sensual, mid-tempo samba “By Hand (Em Mãos)” and on her enchanting reading of Kurt Weil’s 1943 gem “Speak Low,” another classic that gets an update with a hybrid groove underneath her inventive reharmonization on an abbreviated form. In addition to Kibble’s haunting background vocals, “Speak Low” also features sumptuous flugelhorn playing from the jazz-great, multi-GRAMMY® Award-winning trumpeter, Randy Brecker. Elias and Brecker sparked a wonderful professional and personal relationship starting in the early ’80s. Elias remarks, “Our friendship and musical relationship has remained all these years. Randy is a virtuoso musician, and his amazing playing is modern while deep in the tradition at the same time. He’s simply one of a kind.”
João Bosco, one of Brazil’s most eminent singer-songwriters, appears on Elias’ feisty take of his classic song “Coisa Feita.” Elias’ arrangement incorporates a deeper bottom and more forceful propulsion; it also includes some of her most aggressive piano improvisations on the entire album. “Samba can’t swing any more than what we all brought to this recording, if I may say it,” Elias boasts. “I’m so proud of this version. The intensity in João Bosco’s music was influential to me during my formative years and I wanted to include him in this album.
Toquinho is the other stellar Brazilian singer-songwriter-guitarist guesting on Dance of Time. The first time Elias encountered the iconic Toquinho, she was only 17 years old. He, along with Vinicius de Moraes and Antonio Carlos Jobim, discovered her playing when she was leading a jazz trio. “After they heard me play, they invited me to join their tours throughout Brazil and South America. It was fantastic. At age 17, I started my life on the road,” Elias remembers.
While working alongside Toquinho and Vinicius de Moraes, Elias developed a way of articulating the samba rhythm on the piano that is unique to her. Performing together, Eliane and Toquinho enliven the melancholy “Samba de Orly,” a 1970 tune that Toquinho penned with de Moraes and Chico Buarque that addresses the sentiments of living in exile during Brazil’s notorious military dictatorship.
Toquinho later appears on the disc’s closer, “Not to Cry (Pra Não Chorar),” a poignant duet with Elias. The song was initially composed by Toquinho in 1978 and entitled “Eliane,” but it was unfinished. “When I reminded him of the tune, Toquinho was thrilled. We finished the song,” Elias says. “He wrote all the lyrics, which are nostalgic as they talk about the times we were together with Vinicius, rehearsing, touring and living a life in music and art.”
On the wondrous original “An Up Dawn,” Elias invites Amilton Godoy—one of her earliest mentors to join in a festive piano duet. While she handles the all-encompassing samba groove, Godoy presents the prancing melody of which Elias sings in unison. Godoy is not only an important figure in Elias’ life, he fronted the popular Zimbo Trio and founded one of the most important music schools in Brazil, the Centro Livre De Aprendizagem Musical (CLAM), in 1973. Elias was only 13 years old when she enrolled at CLAM.
Under Godoy’s mentorship, Elias’ musical knowledge evolved rapidly. So impressed with not only Elias’ musicality and virtuosity at the piano but also her astonishing transcribing skills, Godoy promoted her as a teacher when she was merely a 15-year-old. “I helped create the syllabus and method books that they still use today,” Elias says. “I then was made a professor of the piano department where I taught for four more years, until age 19.”
Rounding out Dance of Time are Elias’ irresistible, virtuosic version of João Donato’s 1965 hit “Sambou Sambou,” whose lyrics revel in the joys of the samba dance while her superb piano gets you off your seat, and her tender reading of Ary Barroso’s “Na Batucada da Vida,” an intrepid ballad written in 1934. Speaking of the latter, Elias says, “This song was harmonically advanced for its time and is quite challenging vocally due to its wide vocal range.” Elias’ profound interpretation on this track reveals a depth of emotional expression that penetrates one’s soul.
With all its multiple reference points, Elias sees Dance of Time as her way of acknowledging various people and influences who informed and continue to inspire her music. And as stated before, she uses this new album as her personal salute to samba. “If you were to slow down the samba, you could get to some very beautiful, heartfelt lyricism,” she says. “Most people dance to samba music while caught up in the intoxicating rhythm, but one can also dive deeper into the lyrical, harmonic and melodic aspects of the music as well. Elias’ Dance of Time exudes beauty and joy as it moves in rhythm to the beat of her universe. Says Elias, “I wish for the listener to feel the happiness I felt when making this album and hope to bring some joy and beauty into their world.”