(Concord Jazz. CD review by Frank Griffith)
Eliane Elias‘ new album Love Stories is imbued with lush arrangements and unrelenting passion that marks all of her work. Her mastery as vocalist, composer, lyricist and arranger all come to the fore in equal measure here. It is, after all, now nearly four decades since Elias first arrived in New York as a student and promptly became a member of supergroup Steps Ahead.
Elias’s strong and deep connection to bossa nova also shines through; she has an ebullient spirit which invariably finds felicitous and modern ways to re-interpret that tradition. And her interpretation of classics like A Man and A Woman, Angel Eyes and Come Fly With Me as well as iconic Brazilian themes like Jobim’s Bonita and Roberto Menescal’s O Barquinho (little boat), with the composer as guest on guitar, show not just her versatility but also quite how at ease and authentic she can be in so many styles.
There are a coterie of highly ranked Brazilian rhythm sectioneers present: guitarists Marcus Texiera, Edu Riberio, Paula Braga and drummer Celso de Almeida, all of whom rise to the occasion with aplomb.
Elias’ intoxicating vocals emote the serenity of a leafy wood after a storm. A softly dampened palette prevails with an underlying fiery beauty occasionally emerging to offer balance.
Much of this ambience is created with Rob Mathes’ arrangements. His command of writing for strings provides an ideal backdrop throughout. Largely subtle and supportive, his rich harmonies and distinctive melodies sound complete on their own. They never intrude on or overshadow the songs, nor Elias’ delivery of them.
Eliane’s command of the keyboard is demonstrated with a two-handed muscularity that delivers a percussive dynamism verging on a Carnival groove sensibility, when required. Another outstanding attribute to add to her many musical hats that she dons so well.
Elias’ reflecting on Love Stories says “I am very proud of this album and feel its one of the most romantic sets of music that I’ve ever produced”. Indeed it is.