Its release timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Chet Baker’s death, Eliane Elias’ I Thought About You is the most satisfying of the many Baker tributes that have surfaced of late, because the Brazilian pianist and vocalist so keenly appreciates a key shared attribute. Like the perennially misunderstood Baker, wrongfully pegged as a tragedian, Elias is first and foremost a sensualist.
The difference, gorgeously explored across these 14 tracks, is that Baker’s magnetism was derived from a potent blend of mystery and vulnerability while Elias, true to her heritage, trades in a more forthright brand of sexiness. Case in point: Apart from “My Funny Valentine” (which Elias opts to skip), “Let’s Get Lost” remains Baker’s most identifiable signature. Where Baker’s rendition suggests a furtive, wee-hours escape along befogged back roads, Elias navigates a wide-open emprise into romantic discovery.
Of course Baker, even at his most troubled, had the good sense to surround himself with superior players, as does Elias. Bassist and husband Marc Johnson is her most constant companion, providing exquisite support on 13 tracks. Guitarists Steve Cardenas and Oscar Castro-Neves, drummers Victor Lewis and Rafael Barata and percussionist Marivaldo dos Santos are variously present throughout, incorporating equally masterful touches, and Elias’ ex-husband, Randy Brecker, adds trumpet to two tracks, powerfully evoking Baker on “That Old Feeling.” Interestingly, it is the most populous track, “There Will Never Be Another You,” a glorious summit featuring all but Barata, and the sparest, the closing “I Get Along Without You Very Well,” that are the album’s standouts.