Friday, 20 July 2007

Eliane Elias...

As I'm on the theme of CDs I've reviewed and not really liked at the moment, here's another...

Bluebird/BMG (58335)

Call Me; Baubles, Bangles and Beads; Fotographia; Movin’ Me On; So Nice; That’s All; Tangerine; Dreamer; Time Alone; Doralice; A House Is Not A Home.

Michael Brecker (ts); Elaine Elias (p, voc); Oscar Castro Neves (g); Marc Johnson (b); Paolo Braga (d); orchestra directed by Rob Mathes.

Once aggressively marketed as a bona fide jazz sex symbol, with album covers that could have featured in a Pirelli calendar, Brazilian singer-pianist Eliane Elias remains hot property in the world of music marketing. Classically trained and with a dazzling technique at the piano, Elias could comfortably survive in the top ranks of jazz instrumentalists should she choose to do so. With the current vogue for singer-pianists, however, her second Bluebird release is an unashamed attempt to tap into the Norah Jones-Diana Krall market.

Although pleasant and well executed in the ways that crossover jazz often is, the music on ‘Dreamer’ is as soft-focus as the portrait of Elias which adorns its cover. The album takes the sound of the classic Jobim-Gilberto collaborations as its main inspiration, though the material is drawn not just from the Brazilian songbook but includes several American standards and two Elias originals. Calling on the services of former Steps Ahead colleague Michael Brecker, bassist Marc Johnson and and guitarist Oscar Castro Neves, the band is certainly of a high calibre. Yet individual talents are neutered by the tight orchestration and insipid, cloying string arrangements.

On the few occasions that Brecker solos, he merely summons short and velvety Getz pastiches appropriate to the idiom. Elias’ piano is restricted to colourful fills. As a vocalist her talents are rather less obvious than her pianism, though she is at least passable. The voice is husky and accented, with a narrow range that renders a lot of the material as same-y. Standout tracks tend to be simply those that are slightly different. Elias’ ‘Movin’ Me On’ has an ear for potential air-play, ‘Doralice’ is sung in her native tongue and benefits from the most stripped-down and unfussy arrangement, and ‘Time Alone’ includes a slightly longer piano solo.

Other than that, all you really need to know is that ‘Call Me’ is not a cover of the Blondie classic of the same name. Dreamer is primarily a vehicle for Elias’ voice and must ultimately be judged on its own terms. Undoubtedly jazz-related music, improvisation is sadly so tightly harnessed that even in crossover terms the disc occupies a curious limbo, leaving it unlikely to either offend or excite.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, July 2004)

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