Dance of Time
**** (out of 5)
Perhaps you can go home again.
Brazilian pianist and singer Eliane Elias established her jazz bonafides in the early 80s as a member of Steps Ahead after moving to the United States. Once she embarked on a solo career, Elias set her course by tacking between pop and jazz, bringing to bear her Brazilian roots.
Dance of Time, a follow up of sorts to her GRAMMY-winning Made in Brazil (2015), plays like a celebration and thank you note to some of the artists and styles that shaped her music.
Recorded in Brazil, Dance of Time, features several guests, all significant artistically and personally to Elias, artists such as Amilton Godoy, the pianist of the exceptional Zimbo Trio and an early mentor; guitarist and singer Toquinho (with whom she toured as a teenager), and Joao Bosco, whom she calls an important influence as singer and songwriter. And the album, produced by Elias, Marc Johnson and Steve Rodby, also includes nods to, for lack of a better term, her “American life.” There are notable contributions by trumpeter (and ex-husband) Randy Brecker, here on flugelhorn; vibraphonist Mike Mainieri (founder of Steps Ahead) and Mark Kibble, of Take 6, who provided vocal arrangements on three tracks (check the classic “Copacabana”) that suggest a nod to the vocal tradition in Brazilian music and groups such as Os Cariocas, Quarteto em Cy and MPB 4 .
As so much Brazilian popular music and jazz, Dance of Time sounds easy on the ear and, often, deceptively simple — until you listen closely and take notice of the subtle harmonic and rhythmic turns. There are several sambas in the program (including “Sambou Sambou,” which gets an exceptional, eloquent piano solo; Elias’ own “ By Hand” (Em Maos) and Toquinho’s “Samba de Orly”) and in the notes accompanying the recording Elias says “Samba can’t swing any more than what we brought to this recording, if I may say it.” It´s hard to argue with her.
Remarkably, it often sounds effortless. As hard and exact as those rhythm sections are playing, one gets the feeling that, for all we know, the drummer is sipping one of those drinks with an umbrella as he drives the music forward. It’s that strong and relaxed.
The exceptional instrumentalist who finds wide success as a pop singer remains a rare occurrence however – think Nat King Cole, Chet Baker or George Benson — and there are no pop hits yet for Elias. But she is an engaging vocalist and remains a compelling pianist who swings hard and draws freely, and seemingly always elegantly, from blues, post bop and Brazilian music. The final track, “Not to Cry” (Pra Nao Chorar), is a song Toquinho began to write for Elias in 1978 (it was then called “Eliane”) but he never finished. Toquinho and Elias completed it for this recording.
It is a fitting closing for Dance of Time: Debts have been paid, thank you’s have been given and the song has been played out. That’s how you go home again.
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Old friend Carlos Suarez, once the manager and buyer of the much lamented record shop Esperanto Music, on Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, has been living in Brazil since 2006. Since June, 2007 he has been running (what else?) a great record shop: Big Papa Records. Of course, we had to ask and his suggestion for musician-to-watch was composer, guitarist and bandleader Lourenço Rebetez. Here’s a taste.