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Eliane Elias: New York, NY, June 2, 2011

Ernest Barteldes By

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Eliane Elias
Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
New York, NY
June 2, 2011

Pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias opened her set at New York's Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, in celebration of Light My Fire (Concord, 2011) with "Ladeira," a Gilberto Gil-penned instrumental samba with a very syncopated drive. The tune was more like a warm-up, where her solid band—drummer Rafael Barata, percussionist Marivaldo Santos, acoustic guitarist Rubens de La Corte and bassist Marc Johnson—seemed to stretch its muscles for what was to come. Elias immediately followed with Ary Barroso's "Isso Aqui o Que E"—a tune celebrating the virtues of Brazil and the happiness of its people—initially accompanied solely by de La Corte and Santos (on shekere). The remaining members gradually joined in, with Elias and Barata taking accomplished solos.

Among the highlights of the set was a bossa nova arrangement of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me." Elias demonstrated a percussive approach to her instrument, hitting the keys with strength that added brightness to each note. Joao Donato's "A Ra" was also enjoyable, with Elias highlighting the composer's unique pianistic approach—using the right hand in a samba format, while employing the left provide a Latin flavor. She also featured a handful of Antonio Carlos Jobim numbers, including "Por Causa de Voce" and "So Danco Samba," the latter of which served to showcase the ensemble's individual talents, including a dexterous solo from de La Corte.

There was one unexpected moment during the set, when Elias acknowledged the presence of guitarist Romero Lubambo in the audience. He got up, walked to the stage and asked if he could sit in. De La Corte promptly handed him the guitar, and Lubambo proceeded to improvise around one of the tracks he played on Elias' record. He then switched gears and started playing around a simple chord progression, with Johnson and Elias following him, and then it was a feast of snippets, which included Luis Gonzaga's "Asa Branca," amongst other songs.

The set closed with "Chiclete Com Banana," a Brazilian classic originally recorded by Jackson do Pandeiro, whose lyrics criticized the Americanization of Brazilian music in the late '50s. The arrangement was a blend of samba, Afro-Cuban music and straight-ahead jazz, giving Johnson an opportunity to deliver his only solo of the entire set. He played very subtly, responding to the percussionists' groove and to Elias' left hand.

Elias balanced the music between more classic Brazilian numbers, bossa nova and straight-ahead jazz. Lubambo's unscheduled appearance was also a great surprise, and of course the entire ensemble was in great shape, which made for quite a few greatly entertaining moments.

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