Elaine Elias | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Elaine Elias 

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ELIANE ELIAS

When Brazilian-born polymath pianist and sometime singer Eliane Elias named her most recent record Everything I Love (Blue Note), she wasn't kidding. The core of the album consists of selections from the Great American Songbook (Berlin, Gershwin, Porter), but Elias also offers tunes by Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Mingus; a song of her own in memory of Bud Powell; and on several tracks, semicomposed "introductions" that demonstrate her respect for Keith Jarrett. About the only thing missing from Everything is Brazilian music, but Elias has displayed her fondness for it on most of her previous albums. On the current record her bright, airy technique and voluptuous embrace of all her materials makes it plain enough that she can play anything she chooses--so her omission of Brazilian music serves as a rebuttal to anyone still inclined to typecast her as a latter-day girl from Ipanema. Though Elias's discography emphasizes her roots--ranging from pre-samba chorinho to Ivan Lins's post-tropicalia pop, and including two entire albums devoted to the songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim--she's always been an excellent jazz pianist from Brazil, as opposed to a pianist playing Brazilian jazz. Her generally light touch sometimes echoes the breeziness of bossa nova, but she counters it by pushing her piano voicings into the hidden crevasses of a song's harmonic structure, in the process broadening and deepening the impact of her lithe finger work. At this show Elias will lead the exceptional trio from her 1997 album, The Three Americas, featuring drummer Satoshi Takeishi and bassist Marc Johnson, who's worked with her for the past ten years. With his lustrous sound and dazzling technique, Johnson has succeeded Eddie Gomez as Elias's favored bass man--just as he succeeded Gomez in Bill Evans's trio in the late 70s, becoming the last bass player in that long-running group. And his presence underscores Elias's appreciation for Evans's approach to the trio as a three-way partnership, rather than a strict hierarchy. Saturday, May 12, 7:30 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.

NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.

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