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April 2008

Eliane Elias
Something for You: Eliane Elias Sings and Plays Bill Evans
Blue Note Records

Like so many jazz pianists of her generation, Eliane Elias formed her musical sensibility under the spell of Bill Evans. In this collection, she makes plain the extent and depth of his influence as well as her own expressive growth in the three decades since she first heard Evans. She demonstrates both aspects in a reduction of “I Love My Wife.” Less than half as long as Evans’ 1978 recording, the Elias performance does not reach his rhythmic intensity. But she finds the song’s emotional core and manages to approximate on one piano much of the harmonic density and complexity of line that Evans achieved by overdubbing three piano tracks.

Elias also performs “Nenette” without accompaniment, providing further evidence of the extent to which she has absorbed Evans’ harmonic language and his use of rhythmic displacement. On other tracks, Marc Johnson is the bassist, as he was in Evans’ last trio with drummer Joe La Barbera. In this case, Joey Baron plays drums with his usual incisive brush and cymbal work. As in the Evans trio, the operating principle is based in interaction and interdependence, observed most completely in “Solar.” The intertwined improvisations of Elias and Johnson comprise a cooperative melodic voice. Elias sings on six of the tracks, her round alto illuminating Gene Lees’ enchanting words to “Waltz for Debby” and, in Portuguese, delivering an emotional “Minha.”

The CD includes two pieces recently discovered by bassist Johnson on a cassette Evans gave him shortly before he died. Elias essentially recreated “Evanesque” from the elements of Evans’ composition. The more substantial discovery, “Here Is Something for You,” grew from the cassette of Evans’ demonstration of the tune’s form and harmonies. Evans is heard laying out the tune’s progressions for Johnson with infectious energy and an occasional whoop of delight or surprise. Elias wrote lyrics to the song, incorporating allusions to other pieces associated with Evans. Evans’ cassette track melds into the reprise of a few bars of Elias singing her lyrics for a reflective close to the album.

Originally published in April 2008
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