Album reviews

Eliane Elias, Chick Corea, Chucho Valdés – ‘Mirror Mirror’

Eliane Elias, Chick Corea, Chucho Valdés – Mirror Mirror

 (Candid CCD 30042. Album review by Alison Bentley)

Which is the image and which is the reflection? On this fine album, Brazilian-born, Grammy-winning pianist Eliane Elias duets with Cuban-born pianist Chucho Valdés and the late Chick Corea. It’s fascinating to hear how they bring out different aspects of each other’s playing. Elsewhere, Elias is also an accomplished, subtle singer, and this is her first piano-only album since her 1995 duets with Herbie Hancock. Mirror Mirror was recorded in New York in 2018.

Elias’ four duets with Chick Corea include two of Corea’s compositions and two standards, recorded spontaneously without rehearsal or charts. “Chick is one of the pianists that have strongly influenced and inspired me,” she says, and the pieces have a rhythmic vibrance. The melody of Corea’s Armando’s Rhumba balances strong rhythmic motifs with a little melancholy. The solos skip across the beat, and the energy builds in singing lines. The well-known standard Blue Bossa is given a new twist by the sweet harmonies and unexpected sharp rhythms. The solos delineate the harmony with striking montunos, and Tristano-like twisting lines.

In contrast, Mirror Mirror (Corea) opens dreamily in five with a bluesy lilt, a strongly-played ballad as the pianists’ phrases reflect each other. The playful swing of There Will Never Be Another You Is a reminder of the Oscar Peterson influence on Elias. There’s a sense of delayed suspense as triplets trip across the beat and a walking bassline earths everything.

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Chucho Valdés was apparently surprised that Elias knew the Spanish tunes she’d chosen. “We created a fresh blend of Cuban and Brazilian rhythms,” she says.

The duets with Valdés are quite different- more romantic in tone, but still with stunning rhythmic energy. In Armando Manzanero’s Esta Tarde Vi Llover, the two respond to the strongly emotive melody, taking real pleasure in it, and the solos seem to spring from the melody. There are some groovy Cuban-style basslines behind the ecstatic improvisations. In Corazón Partío the chords seem to blend with the melody and the solos run at supernatural speed, full of romantic grace notes and rhythmic subtlety. In the long coda they spark seemingly endless ideas off each other. Sabor A Mi hints at Evans’ Peace Piece till the melody swoops in and full block chords fill out a slow Latin groove with virtuosic fun.

“It was all about the two pianos facing each other like a beautiful mirror image, and how in each duet we reflected each other’s thoughts and ideas back and forth,” says Elias. The image and the reflection together create something new and intriguing.

Mirror Mirror is nominated for a 2022 Grammy in the category Best Latin Jazz Album (FEATURE)
Digital & CD Release September 10, 2021. Vinyl Release January 28, 2022

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