Title - 'Bossa Nova Stories' (Blue Note Records)
Artist - Eliane Elias
I’ve always had a huge soft spot for the silky, seductive rhythms of Bossa Nova. It is the total antidote to a cold, snowy Detroit winter’s day. The opening chords from ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ never fails to conjure up images of warm, sandy beaches populated by sunbathing beauties drinking long, cold cocktails. Bossa nova is the perfect fantasy escapist music: one of the few musical genres to generate a unique ambience, an atmosphere both exciting and yet achingly cool.
Eliane Elias beautifully captures the magic of her native Brazil in this 14-tune collection that is her 23rd album (which includes two Best of…releases). Born in São Paulo, Eliane studied classical piano before moving to New York in the early 1980s to join influential jazz group ‘Steps Ahead’. Since 1987, she has been releasing albums as a solo artist, and she has previously recorded two albums interpreting the samba-derived rhythm music of Antonio Carlos Jobim: 1990’s: ‘Eliane Elias Plays Jobim’ and 1998’s: ‘Sings Jobim’.
On Bossa Nova Stories, Elias re-interprets Jobim’s ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ and ‘Desafinado’ as well as classic bossa nova tracks including ‘Chega de Saudade’ and ‘Minha Saudade’. She also gives the bossa nova treatment to the American songbook standards; ‘Too Marvelous for Words’, ‘Day In and Day Out’ and ‘You Can’t Take That Away From Me’. She also tackles the, slightly more contemporary, Stevie Wonder song ‘Superwoman’. It would be fair to say that there aren’t any real surprises with the material and many of the songs will be familiar to most listeners.
The playing throughout is faultless. Elias’s band, which includes bassist and husband Marc Johnson, is outstanding, providing understated swing and comprehensive musicianship throughout. A surprise guest is the legendary jazz-harmonica player Toots Thielemans, who, at the tender age of 86, provides a trademark solo on the track ‘Estate (Summer)’.
Eliane Elias’s piano playing is superb and her light vocal performance is perfectly matched to the material.
It might be argued that she doesn’t take any risks with her performance, but this, for me, is the strength of this album. She treats the songs with love and respect for where they have come from and what they mean to jazz lovers the world over. Bossa Nova Stories is not a total triumph, but it is beautifully performed, lovingly crafted, and would be a fine addition to any jazz collection.
Peter 'taB' Walker