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August 16 2022 8:06 AM ˚
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The exquisite jazz of Eliane Elias

Eliane Elias
Brazilian pianist Eliane Elias. (Photo: Facebook)
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Eliane Elias

Jean-Claude Elias

The writer is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.

Mirror Mirror is the latest album by Brazilian pianist extraordinaire Eliane Elias. It comes with two new elements: it is the first album where the musician, who is also a brilliant singer, only plays the piano and does not sing at all; it consists of instrumental duets performed with two other jazz giants, megastars in their own right, just like her: American Chick Corea and Cuban Chucho Valdés.اضافة اعلان

For jazz lovers, the mere thought of listening to these three pianists featured on one single album is a dream, one that does indeed come true upon listening to the seven pieces they recorded. Elias takes turns at playing and improvising with Corea and Valdés.

The two virtuosos set the pace from the opening track, Armando’s Rhumba, played with Corea (Armando is his original first name) who also composed the piece. The bright sound of the two Yamaha grand pianos is a perfect match for the style. Despite the intricate chords, the subtle improvisation lines, and the relatively fast tempo, each note is heard clearly and well rendered. This is a great example of virtuosity delivered with restraint and mastery.

Sometime when jazz performances become too complex, non-musician listeners can lose their way, and only the performers “get their kicks”. This is not the case here; everything remains easy to follow and enjoy. Elias’ style, which is strongly Latin-Brazilian flavored, and Corea’s known avantgarde accents, blend very well.

The second piece, Esta Tarde Vi Llover, played with Valdés, is more on the pure Latin side, understandably, given the roots of the two musicians. Here too, the performance is an absolute delight. Whether in the chords, in the rhythmic patterns, or in the solo lines, the improvisational vocabulary of the two musicians proves that it is one of the finest of the genre.

I particularly enjoyed the third track, Blue Bossa, a jazz standard that has been covered by countless musicians the world over, and that was created by Kenny Dorham. Here Elias and Corea manage to preserve the beauty of the catchy melodic line of Blue Bossa’s main theme, to improvise brilliantly on it, while keeping everything under control and easy enough for the listener to follow. It is really refined, classy jazz at its best, a beautiful example of instrumental virtuosity associated with good taste. Whatever your kind of jazz, this one is hard not to love.

Corazon Partio, the fourth track, remains entirely in the Latin realm, with a gentle bossa nova beat, and the absolutely superb musical conversation that occurs between Elias and Valdés. It does get a bit crazy toward the middle of what is the longest piece of the album, which lasts 12 minutes, without however losing any of its appeal. It is a showcase of what four exceptionally talented and seasoned hands can do on two pianos.

Mirror Mirror, the piece that gives its title to the album, is a Corea’s composition. Things slow down a bit here, as if to let the listeners catch their breath. Again, the musical dialog between the two performers, Elias and Corea, flows gently and nicely.

Sabor A Mi, has an even slower tempo and brings us back to Elias and Valdés and to the Latin side of jazz. It is a well-known composition by Mexican Alvaro Carillo.

The last track, There Will Never Be Another You, played by Elias and Corea, is another jazz standard included in the album. A little more complex than the other six pieces, it still maintains the momentum and the superlative quality of what is truly a first-class album.

I first listened to the music on Spotify, in pure high-definition sound. I then watched some of the tracks that are available as videos on YouTube, with the usual average sound quality, but that nicely complement the experience with the sight of the musicians playing.

Sadly, celebrated Chick Corea passed away in February last year, during the period the recording of the album was taking place. Elias continued to work on the project with Valdés, and the album was finally released by the end of the year.

Chucho Valdés is the son of the late Bebo Valdés who also was a jazz great. One of the most successful recordings of Bebo Valdés was Lagrimas Negras (Black Tears) in 2003; it was an innovative and amazing combination of Cuban jazz and Spanish flamenco.

Mirror Mirror is co-produced by Marc Johnson, Elias’ husband. Along with Canadian Diana Krall, Elias is currently the most famous female jazz pianist. She was largely recognized as a child prodigy at a very young age.

When I discovered her music, years ago I sent her an email, asking if by any chance she had Middle Eastern ancestry, and if we could be related, given our common last name and the fact that I myself have family who emigrated to Brazil. Though she was already famous and a rather busy performing musician, she kindly took the time to send me a personal and courteous reply, saying that she actually had Italian roots, but that she loved the Middle East and enjoyed “hommos” and “falafel”!


Jean-Claude Elias is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.
 

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