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Eliane Elias is comfortable in her own skin. The pianist/composer learned to play piano in her native Sao Paulo at the age of seven and began transcribing jazz recordings by the age of twelve. For years she worked to introduce herself through her music, relying on her natural proclivity for infusing the music she loves with her cultural self.
Elias has maintained an unyielding commitment as a pianist/composer who just so happens to be a Brazilian female, in an industry that more readily packages its female talent as attractive women with marginal abilitiesand its Latin American cohort as Latin jazz musicians, regardless of their musical stylings. With more than seventeen albums as a leader to her credit (she has also recorded several vocal albums, including 2004's much celebrated Dreamer), she has managed to broaden her audience simply by pursuing music in new ways.
Elias is creative in her approach on Around the City, where she uses the music to illustrate how the makeup of a city can be a metaphor for life. These songs represent perseverance and forgiveness, fun times and celebration, and lovejust as cities include business districts, working-class neighborhoods and all-night party spots. In addition to original works, the disc includes revamped covers of popular hits like Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va, Beck's "Tropicalia, and Bob Marley's "Jammin'. The leader gets some help from songwriters Lauren Christy and Lester Mendez and co-producer Andres Levin, the brainchild behind the Latin/funk hop group Yerba Buena.
The music (coupled with Elias' unique vocals) is executed masterfully. "Running is flavored with mid-tempo Latin grooves that on their own could cause listeners to absently sway along to the beat. Add Elias's vocals and the unconscious sway becomes something of a conscious gesture of being. Bob Marley's easygoing hit song "Jammin' has been given a high-energy makeover, but Elias and Levin show the reggae anthem proper respect through their impeccable musicianship and production, making it a welcome tribute instead of a bad karaoke cover.
Other standout performances are Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va, where the vocals add a sexy, feel-good vibe, and "Segredos (Secrets) and "We're So Good, both songs about love. The music and the lyrics work in a call and response fashion, and the lyrics become sexier as a result of the music's direction.
Around the City is one of the more ambitious works of 2006, and Elias has managed to deliver. Who knew that life in the city could sound so good?
Track Listing: Running; Oye Como Va; Around the City; Jammin'; Segredos (Secrets); We're So Good;
Tropicalia; Slide Show; A Vizinha Do Ado (the next door neighbor); Save Your Love For Me;
Chiclete Com Banana; Another Day; Segredos (Secrets) part 2.
Personnel: Eliane Elias: vocals, piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3 organ, synths; Marc
Johnson: bass; Oscar Castro-Neves and Vicente Amigo: acoustic guitar; Adam Rodgers and
Andres Levin: electric guitar; Lester Mendez: instrumentation; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Dave
Valentin: flute; Peter Scherer: synths; Paulo Braga and Gene Lake: drums; Paulinho da Costa,
Gilmar Gomes, Pedro Martinez and Piraña: percussion.