• Jam Session alerts

Anthology filled to capacity for the Sept. 14 Eliane Elias show. Even on the third level, where there is limited sightlines to the bandstand, waiters were having to drag extra tables to accommodate the ever growing numbers of her fans.

While her rhythm section of husband Marc Johnson on solid-body upright bass, and fellow Brazilian drummer Rafael Beratta vamped, Elias made a grand entrance in a "little black dress", something she wears to great effect.

Sitting at the piano, she laced that vamp with bluesy, gospel inflections that indicated how much American jazz has imbued her consciousness since arriving in the US in the 1980s. This was a point that would surface many times in the show.

She announced the Antonio Carlos Jobim standard, "Chega de Saudade" as the next piece, and though it began with the familiar Bossa Nova groove, Elias and company quickly turned it into a swing fest after erupting into double-time on the second chorus.

Johnson let fly with a multi-note solo with frequent excursions into the cello register of his instrument, sounding uncannily like Gary Peacock a good deal of the time. Maybe it's their shared association with the late Bill Evans, at any rate, every time Johnson got the spotlight, he wowed the listener with his use of velocity, creative repetition and well timed double stops.

Toward the end of the piece they traded a series of eights, fours and twos with Baratta, a superb drummer who shares many of the attributes of Pat Metheny sideman Antonio Sanchez. Both share intricate ride cymbal patterns with an astonishing integration of multiple cowbell strikes and cross-sticking tom-tom poly-rhythms.

Further supporting her love of the Great American Songbook, Elias leapt into Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me" with obvious affection. She's got a huskier mid-range, but much of the same pure vulnerability as the great Brazilian songbird Astrud Gilberto who came to fame with Stan Getz in the 1960s.

Showcasing the title tune from her latest release, Elias' arrangement of the rock standard "Light My Fire" was a bird of a different color, to be sure. Performed with a throbbing, slow pulse which allowed for her accented articulation of "few-neh-rahl pyre", the singer transformed the piece into even darker, more mysterious and languid territory--offset by serpentine strands of piano adventure.

The highlight moment came with her interpretation of "You And The Night And The Music," a standard from her Bill Evans tribute album a few years back. Attacking the tune with a wild swing abandon, Elias whipped out layers of overlapping ideas with intricate force and melodic invention. Johnson's solo began from the opposite aesthetic--it almost seemed as if the song had ended, and he was inventing a deliberate, measured response. Using a touch of digital delay, Johnson began building ideas that repeated as he elaborated, and altered their meaning.

The concert came to a close with a treatment of the Jobim classic "Desafinado". Once again the familiar Bossa Nova groove was re-invented into a swinging 4/4, featuring extended solos for piano, bass and drums.

After several minutes of standing ovation, Elias, Johnson and Beratta returned for a pitch-perfect excursion on "Girl From Ipanema", the song that began America's fascination with the Bossa Nova in 1964.

photo courtesy Eliane Elias

  • Jam Session alerts


Sign in to comment

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader