Back to Brazil


To say that acclaimed Brazilian vocalist Eliane Elias was feeling nostalgic as she embarked on her latest outing, Made In Brazil (Concord Jazz), is a vast understatement. Saudade, the Portuguese word that encompasses both deep sadness and ecstatic joy, perhaps better characterizes Elias’ frame of mind at the time. In the fall of 2013, when she learned that dear friend, longtime collaborator and bossa-nova guitar virtuoso Oscar Castro-Neves had died, Elias felt an emptiness inside that could only be filled by reclaiming her roots. “I’ll miss Oscar forever, and I’m glad that I made the decision to go record in Brazil,” she says. “It was the right thing to do.”

Elias and Neves’s musical ties date back to the late ’80s. Most recently they worked together on Elias’ previous album, I Thought About You (A Tribute to Chet Baker), released just months before Neves’ passing. While the aptly titled new disc marks the first time the pianist/composer recorded an album in Brazil since moving to the United States in 1981, Elias has always showcased the music of her country throughout her decades-long career. “I have always represented the music of Brazil in different ways,” she notes. “But I have to tell you that it’s different to go there, to be there, the environment, the climate, the people, the language … the whole thing happened there.”

Recorded in São Paulo’s Nacena Studios between caipirinhas and take-out pizza (“New York pizza is good, but the best pizza in the world is in São Paulo,” Elias assures), the resulting CD is a mixed bag of tunes spanning three generations of Brazilian composers, namely Ary Barroso, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Roberto Menescal. Six Elias originals complete the 12-track disc, on which tradition and contemporary verve comingle naturally. There is even an R&B-meets-Brazilian soul moment, featuring Ed Motta’s velvety vocals, on “Vida (If Not You)” and a tender exchange with her daughter, singer/songwriter Amanda Brecker on “Some Enchanted Place.”

“I have no words for that,” Elias says. “It’s so hard to sing with her because I’m between tears and a smile. She phrases just the way I dream it to be. Her voice melds into mine and creates a sound I was imagining. Just gorgeous.”

Made In Brazil also features vocal group Take 6, singer Mark Kibble and seven orchestral arrangements by Rob Mathes. Surrounded by Brazilian-bred luminaries, Elias brilliantly captures the complexities of human emotions in a seamless display that reconciles past and present, loss and fulfillment, melancholy and bliss, all while celebrating her homecoming. “It was very special, very exciting, and I am thrilled with the results.” —Lissette Corsa

Photo Credit: Philippe Salomon

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