CD REVIEW: Eliane Elias - Made In Brazil

Eliane Elias - Made In Brazil
(Concord Jazz. CD Review by Eric Ford)

Whilst the cover of this CD looks like it might be aiming directly at the easy listening/music for seduction end of the spectrum, the CD itself is a subtle masterclass in phrasing, groove, taste, rhythmic suppleness, harmonic sophistication and songwriting.

Three generations of Brazilian songwriters are represented. The album begins with Eliane Elias' unexpectedly dreamy re-harmonisation of Ary Barroso's famous Brasil from 1939 and is a lesson in how to approach samba with a light touch. It ends on a more bouncy note with the same composer's No Tabuleiro da Baiana, also coaxed along with exquisite skill by drummer Edu Ribeiro. Sandwiched in between are two of Roberto Menescal's hits from 1963 with the man himself joining in, a medley of two touching Jobim bossa novas of which I was unaware (Este Seu Olhar and Promessas ) and one of his many classics, Aguas de Marco (Waters of March), and 6 songs by Elias herself. These are melodically memorable and utilise unexpected harmonic twists and turns, and sport some playfully sensual lyrics in English by none other than Elias' partner, bass titan Marc Johnson. Driving Ambition, for example, is one of those songs about driving cars that's actually about something altogether different. Marc Johnson: who'd have thought it?

This is Elias' first album to be recorded in Brazil since she moved to the USA in 1981. She's turned it into a celebration of her homeland with the help of a plethora of guests, and not all of them from Brazil. Her vocals blend (as you might expect) very well with her daughter Amanda's on Some Enchanted Place, whilst Ed Motta adds some r'n'b flavour to Vida. But stealing the show amongst the guest vocalists is Mark Kibble, chief arranger for a capella super-group Take 6. Thanks to the wonders of multi-tracking, he manages to sound like all of them by himself.

However, the highlight of the album must surely be the imaginatively and impeccably-arranged version of Waters of March which does actually feature Take 6. You have not heard it like this. I urge you to hear this version, for your own happiness. Its deliciousness is hard to quantify.

Add to all of this Elias' beautiful piano playing and some strings from the London Symphony Orchestra arranged by Rob Mathes and recorded at Abbey Road and you have a sumptuous product. If Eliane Elias could not simply be Made In Brazil but somehow mass-produced, I suspect the world would be a much better and happier place!

Eliane Elias and Ed Motta are at the Barbican on May 4th

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