Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Eliane Elias learned the piano at age 7, and was already transcribing heaping solo portions of her parents’ jazz records by the age of 12.
After studying for 6 years (and teaching by age 15) at Brazil’s prestigious Free Center of Music Apprenticeship, where she learned to hone her incredible improvisational skills, she continued her classical education with Amilton Godoy and Amoral Vieria. She was also the protege of Vinicius de Moraes, lyricist and songwriting partner of Antonio Carios Jobim, a huge influence on Eliane’s work and master of the Brazilian Bossa Nova movement that indelibly influenced many American songwriters.
By age 17, she was touring with the best bossa nova composers and interpreters the world had to offer, composing her own pieces and performing at jazz dubs regularly. It was during this period she was befriended by jazz bassist Eddie Gomez and encouraged to come to New York City where she could showcase her incredible talent to the world.
Eliane moved to New York in 1981 and studied privately with Olegna Fuschi at the Julliard School of Music, eventually joining jazz ‘supergroup’ Steps Ahead (whose members included Gomez, Michael Brecker, Peter Ersta’ne and Mike Mainieri).
Signed to Blue Note Records in 1986, after releasing her debut album Amanda (named after her daughter), Eliane would ultimately become the label’s most prolific and enduring artist, delivering 15 albums, mostly instrumental – a great deal of them topping Billboard’s Jazz charts, including 1995’s Grammy nominated Solos & Duets, featuring Herbie Hancock, and 1998’s vocal turning-point, Sings Jobim, her first full-length venture into the vocal arena (and a follow-up to her earlier tribute to the master, Eliane Elias Plays Jobim).
Eliane signed with RCA/Bluebird Jazz in 2002, releasing the sultry Kissed by Nature. 2004’s Dreamer was her second album for the new label, where Eliane’s vocal work was just beginning. “Once I began singing more, fans would actually come up to me afterwards and ask me to please sing more in future shows. I also began to realize there was a technical side to it as fascinating as the piano. What I loved about working on Around The City is that there are songs where I stretch my abilities with both playing and singing.”
Around the City (2006) found her backed by Randy Brecker. Marc Johnson, Oscar-Castro Neves, Paulo Braga. Paulinho da Costa and many more.
Elias returned to Blue Note/ EMI in 2007 with Something for You, a tribute to the music of Bill Evans.
2008 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Bossa Nova. In celebration of this event, Elias recorded Bossa Nova Stories, featuring some of the landmark songs of Brazil with American classic and pop standards, exquisitely performed as only she can, with lush romantic vocals and exciting playing accompanied by a stellar rhythm section and strings recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London
Bossa Nova Stories (2009) was another best selling album. EMI Japan released Eliane’s first live instrumental recording in July 2009. The CD is called Eliane Elias Plays Live. It was recorded on May 31, 2002 in Amsterdam and is an all instrumental trio recording, featuring Eliane on piano, Marc Johnson on bass and Joey Baron on drums.
In May 2011, Eliane Elias released “Light My Fire.” Gilberto Gil appeared on three tunes, bassist Marc Johnson played on every track and Amanda Brecker made a guest vocalist appearance. Eliane went beyond bossa nova, incorporating different Afro-Brazilian rhythms from the northeast of Brazil to many of the songs.
On May 28, 2013 Concord Jazz released Elias’ I Thought About You (A Tribute To Chet Baker), an album that offered her personalized version on the work of a key American jazz artist.
The album Made in Brazil won the Best Latin Jazz Album Grammy Award. Made in Brazil, released on March 31, 2015 on Concord Jazz, marked a musical for Elias. it was her recording in her native Brazil since moving to the United States in 1981.
On March 24, 2017, Eliane released Dance of Time (Concord Jazz). The album features pianist Amilton Godoy, singer-songwriting guitarists João Bosco and Toquinho from Brazil, trumpeter Randy Brecker, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri and singer Mark Kibble from the United States. Dance of Time celebrates certain people who were integral in Elias’ early artistic journey in both Brazil and the U.S. Dance of Time also applauds the samba, a genre originating from Bahia.
Amanda (Passport Jazz, 1985)
Illusions (Denon, 1986)
Cross Currents (Blue Note, 1987)
So Far So Close (Blue Note, 1989)
Eliane Elias Plays Jobim (Blue Note, 1990)
A Long Story (Manhattan, 1991)
Fantasia (Blue Note, 1992)
Paulistana (Blue Note, 1993)
On the Classical Side (EMI Classics, 1993)
Solos and Duets (Blue Note, 1994)
The Three Americas (Blue Note, 1996)
Impulsive! (Stunt, 1997)
Eliane Elias Sings Jobim (Blue Note, 1998)
Everything I Love (Blue Note, 2000)
Kissed By Nature (RCA Bluebird, 2002)
Dreamer (Bluebird, 2004)
Around the City (RCA Victor, 2006)
Something for You: Eliane Elias Sings & Plays Bill Evans (Blue Note, 2008)
Bossa Nova Stories (Blue Note, 2008)
Eliane Elias Plays Live (Somethin’ Else/EMI, 2009)
Light My Fire (Concord Picante, 2011)
Swept Away (ECM, 2012)
I Thought About You (Concord, 2013)
Made in Brazil (Concord, 2015)
Dance of Time (Concord, 2017)
Music From Man of La Mancha (Concord Jazz, 2018)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.