Incendiary Cool

Eliane Elias - Light My Fire
Eliane Elias

Light My Fire (Concord Picante CPI-32761-02, 2011)

The connections between Brazilian music, jazz and pop are longstanding, and Sao Paulo-born pianist/singer/composer Eliane Elias knows that. She’s among those who’ve kept such connections strong. But she’s gone further, even to the point of recorded works in classical and operatic mode.

Light My Fire doesn’t go so far afield but still plays to many of her strengths, starting with the subtle buildup of Dori Caymmi’s “Rosa Morena” and Kenny Dorham’s well-advised “Stay Cool” before jumping into duet mode alongside Gilberto Gil on Gil’s political exile tale “Aquele Abraco.”

Next comes the title track, a version of, yes, that song by the Doors. The bad news is that it’s nothing to cheer about: despite some appealing guitar subtleties, the overly mellow arrangement and phrasing just don’t grab hold. The good news is that it’s the only sour track on an otherwise crackling album.

Elias quickly gets her groove back on the scatty “Isto Aqui O Que E (Silver Sandal),” has a smoky go at Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour,” does some more sweet sparring with Gil on both the afoxe-flavored “Toda Menina Baiana” and Gonzaguinha co-composition “Turn To Me (Samba Maracatu)” and even freshens a piece as familiar as “Take Five.”

Original compositions are the minority but “Made In Moonlight” and “What About The Heart (Bate Bate)” prove to be warm, inviting reminders that Elias has plenty of worthwhile sentiments of her own. Plus she’s got players such as trumpet expert Randy Brecker on hand to make Light My Fire (on which she did all the arranging and a good part of the producing) a slinky, satisfying soundtrack for many an occasion.

I expect to be reaching for this album repeatedly in those warm summer months that are just around the corner. Or in any kind of weather, really.

Buy the album or MP3 downloads and listen to music samples:

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