By Don Heckman
Eliane Elias’ memorable performance at Catalina Bar & Grill last night was an impressive reminder of the creative interpretations that the Brazilian-born pianist/singer brings to every song she touches.
It recalled the first time I heard Eliane in action, several decades ago at the original Catalina Bar & Grill, when it was still at a location on Cahuenga. She was a relatively unknown young artist at that time. But when she sat down at the piano and delivered a gripping solo rendering of “Body and Soul” she immediately established the fact that she would be one of the most imaginative jazz artists of her generation.
Last night, working with her regular trio – bassist Marc Johnson, guitarist Graham Dechter and drummer Mauricio Zottarelli – Eliane delivered a collection of tunes thoroughly illustrating the maturity that has continued to grow within her work.
Any performance by Eliane is rich with Brazilian authenticity. Born in Sao Paulo, she was still a teenager when she began performing with such iconic figures as composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and lyricist/poet Vinicius de Moraes, while equally fascinated by American jazz.
And this time out she covered both areas, singing such bossa nova classics as “Chega de Saudade,” “Rosa Morena,” “So Danco Samba”and “Desafinado.”
Add to that some Great American songbook selections from her latest album, I Thought About You, inspired by and dedicated to Chet Baker. Here, she brought intimate lyricism and brightly swinging rhythmic emphasis to, among others, “This Can’t Be Love,” the title track, “I Thought About You” and “Embraceable You.”
Early in her career, Eliane was reluctant to showcase herself as a singer, preferring to emphasize her abilities as a jazz pianist. But as she’s matured, applying her warm tone and convincing musical story telling qualities, she’s released her hesitance to emphasize her always mesmerizing vocal interpretations. And the results, fully on display in this captivating appearance, were constantly appealing.
Eliane has two more performances scheduled at Catalina Bar & Grill, tonight and tomorrow (Saturday) night. They should be seen and enjoyed by all fans of the jazz vocal art, which Eliane has mastered, blending her exquisite singing and irresistible piano jazz.
Don’t miss these last two opportunities to hear Eliane Elias highlight the pleasures of vocal jazz at its finest.
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Photos by Bonnie Perkinson.