Eliane Elias Talks About Her New CD, Around the City

Brazilian born pianist and composer Eliane Elias has a new recording titled Around the City. Staking out fertile co-writing sessions (for the first time in her career) with album co-producer, Lester Méndez, and songwriter Lauren Christy, as well as creative collaborations with the disc’s other co-producer, Andrés Levin, Eliane focused on what she calls: “A vocal structure where the voice becomes almost a character itself.”

The 13 song disc includes several covers: the Tito Puente penned-Santana hit “Oye Como Va”, a version of Bob Mariey’s “Jammin”‘, and even a swirling Beck selection, “Tropicalia,” (culled from his 1998 album Mutations), which ironically, was a homage to the Brazilian Tropicalia psychedelic/soul fusion movement of the mid-1960’s.

I wanted the album to come alive – to be almost visual,” she says. “A city can be lonely in places, while at the same time in another part of town. it’s exploding with energy. A good album with the right collection of songs can capture simultaneous emotions, as well. We are all definitely a product of the world around us and a city reflects that awareness better than anything. The different moods, the different struggles and challenges.

I have always tried to take my upbringing, my background, and put it in my music. On this album I was more conscious than ever of carrying on with that attitude in every song.”

The opening track is “Running”. “The genesis of that song starts with the positive message or spirit I felt when making this record. I never begin something if I don’t feel it. and I knew before I started this project I wanted to concentrate on my writing more, where I consciously wrote involving my voice. I also knew that it was time for me to work with other writers and producers. Writing with Lester and Lauren and working closely with Andres Levin felt tike a natural progression. They were all fans of my earlier work and intuitively knew the direction I wanted to go. I didn’t want to go out and make a Dreamer 2.

A reference to her most recent release, 2004’s Dreamer, which scored both critical raves and some important career ‘firsts.’ “It was the first album where I concentrated on vocals and sang mostly in English/’ says Eliane. It was also the first album where she was backed by a full orchestra. The songs on Dreamer were mostly covers, featuring several
American songwriting standards, such as “Call Me” and “That’s All.” placed in a bossa nova setting. The well-received disc also featured two Eliane originals, and showcased -according to the artist – ‘the pianist accompanying the singer.’

Dreamer enabled me to go all over the world singing those standards, with audiences growing increasingly enthusiastic with my voice. I knew I wanted my next project to be something where I could really personalize that imprint – through more writing and singing – challenging myself, but with a sense of adventure and abandon.”

Eliane also hooked up with producer Andrés Levin, the Latin-funk master known as the brainchild behind the Afro/Latin/Hip hop fusion of Yerba Buena (2005’s Island Life). It was as if Levin helped Eliane channel some of those funkier tropical side-streets herself on songs such as “Jammin’,” which features two live drummers and a looped chorus (the disc also boast Eliane’s first all-out use of electronic loops), the low-ride flavor of “Slide Show,” and the Santana classic “Oye Como Va,” where, Eliane says: “We mix bossa nova with a deep Latin groove which is something I always wanted to do.”

In my earliest musical memories I had a passion for doing something in a different, new way. These ideas were just swimming around in my head. You have to remember I never aspired to be a singer. The challenge was always the music. It was the piano for me. And composing. I was always writing and I was such a lover of improvised music, Brazilian rhythm and American jazz. how could I not dream of ways to one day integrate all these wonderful sounds into my own creations.”

Buy Around the City.