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Eliane Elias: For The Love of Jazz

Jim Worsley By

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AAJ: Yes, what I heard is a connectivity of the story as if chapters in a book. As opposed to, here's a song and now here's another song. It was a continuous story. And, indeed, the instrumental aspect worked to broaden and enhance the mood of the stories.

EE: Oh, that is so wonderful to hear you say that, Jim. That was very much the idea. It makes me very happy to know that you heard it that way. When I arrange, I try to capture the emotions and feelings involved. On this record, for example, I sang all the lyrics in English. Certainly, that reaches a lot of people. But for those who don't speak English, it is important that they can still feel the emotions and the mood that is going on at that time.

AAJ: With so many classic love songs to choose from to help tell the Love Stories, what was your process in selecting the tunes that you did?

EE: They are always songs that make me feel deeply. When I am working on, or recording a classic love song, I sometimes get goosebumps and butterflies in my stomach. That is when I know I really have something special and that I have put myself into it. I work like that. I have to really feel it. I would never record a song I don't feel. I have been fortunate to have several great composers tell me that my interpretation of their song is their favorite version of all time. That is such a wonderful compliment, and it gives me the confidence to do more and know that I am tapping into people's emotions.

AAJ: That has to feel amazing. What bigger compliment could you ever receive than that?

EE: It is so very gratifying. Incredibly so. It feels amazing. As an arranger, it is just so very gratifying.

AAJ: One of the many standouts of the record is what you did with "Come Fly with Me." A tune that, of course, is so synonymous with Frank Sinatra.

EE: I love Frank Sinatra's music. This is a tune that I was very excited to record. It actually worked out to be an excellent example of what we sound like playing live with the smaller group. There is so much beautiful interplay between the piano, the bass, and the drums. It showcases that sound very well. I stretched more on the piano than on the other tunes and we had a great groove going on.

AAJ: Your own composition, "The Simplest Things," is very much a highlight of the record. Mature in its message and rich in its presentation, it is relatable and thought provoking. This is a gem that you must be very proud of.

EE: Thank you for that. I'm really thrilled for you to say that. Again, that is exactly what I was trying to convey. When I wrote this, I looked back at all the years. All the years that so many of us have had. It talks about love in many perspectives and the many changes over the years. I put a lot of heart into this one. I had tears of emotion while writing this song.

AAJ: It's one thing to be able to feel that genuinely and deeply. To be able to translate that feeling, express it, and have others feel it as well is a special gift. I'm sure I can speak for many of your fans when I thank you for sharing that gift with us.

EE: Oh, such a wonderful thing to say. Thank you so very much for that.

AAJ: Getting back a little bit to the process, how do you go about integrating the lush orchestration with the nuances of your jazz ensemble?

EE: We record the songs with the small ensemble first.

AAJ: That makes sense since there will be improvisations and changes in the jazz core.

EE: Yes. I leave space where I know I want to have orchestration. After that I work with Rob Mathes on the orchestral arrangements. That is a whole entire different process. We recorded at Abbey Road studio. That is such a special place to record. A special place just to be. It was really a joy. Such a wonderful vibe there. Rob Mathes is a fantastic arranger. We have this musical marriage. We really understand each other. He knows what I want and has such beautiful ideas.

AAJ: When do you start your tour in support of Love Stories with your quartet?

EE: Very soon. We will be in Chicago, New York, Canada, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston among others. Then off to Europe and Mexico. This will be September through December. We will take a break and then do another leg of the tour in different cities.

AAJ: Do you play Phoenix?

EE: Yes. We will be at the Musical Instrument Museum in March.

AAJ: Such a great venue. I love that place.

EE: Isn't it though? Yes, it is a very nice place to play.

AAJ: Having your husband (who just happens to be bassist extraordinaire Marc Johnson) as the anchor of your quartet has to be fun and certainly keeps the music tight.

EE: Marc is wonderful with the grooves. I don't believe there is any other bassist that can do some of the things he does. I'm not just saying that because he is my husband. His input in the studio too. He oversees the sound engineering. He has such a great ear. He knows exactly the tone I need on any and every piano.

AAJ: I know he has played with a very long list of great artists but what always first pops into my head when his name is mentioned is in conjunction with the great pianist Bill Evans.

EE: Oh yes, such wonderful music.

AAJ: You have won multiple Grammys for your exceptional work. Most artists will say, although they appreciate the recognition, it isn't what it's all about. That other aspects are much more important. What aspects of your musical journey do you consider to be the most important and/or most rewarding?

EE: Well, I don't know any artist that has won a Grammy that doesn't list it at the top of their bio. So, it is a very important recognition from your peers and from the people. You are competing with hundreds, maybe thousands of other artists for recognition. So, it does mean a lot, no matter what anyone says. Now that is one side of the story. On the other hand, my love of music and my relationship with music is independent of that. It stands on its own. I love to perform, and I love to record, I love to bring something into people's lives. I want to be a part of their life. I want to be in their homes and in their cars. I want to be there when someone is alone and when they have their friends over. I want to reach and touch people all the time. That is very important to me.

AAJ: When you take stock of your career at this point are there concepts or "bucket list" artists that you would like to perform or record with that just haven't happened yet?

EE: (Laughing out loud) That is not a short list. There are so many. I have three different projects that I am working on. So many other instrumental and vocal ideas. There is just this fountain of musical ideas to be excited about. I am always working on it. Music, like life, evolves and changes. It is not complacent. I am not lacking in inspirations. I wish I had more time to work on all the things I would like to do. There will always be new and fresh avenues to explore. There is more to create. More to record. And more traveling to do. I love to travel (with a laugh).

AAJ: We then have much more to look forward to. In the interim, enjoy your tour, continued success, and thank you so much for talking with me today, Eliane. I enjoyed it immensely.

EE: It was such a pleasure, Jim. I enjoyed talking with you so very much. I really hope to see you at one of my shows.
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