In the photos that adorn her albums, pianist Eliane Elias favors suggestive little dresses and indolent pouts–exactly the sort of ploy that’s traditionally used to distract consumers from artistic mediocrity. Then she starts to play and blows that theory straight to hell. While not yet a major jazz artist, Elias has established herself–on a slew of discs with the group Steps Ahead, with former husband Randy Brecker, and under her own name–as a delightfully accomplished pianist, achieving knuckle-busting improvisations, while easily navigating her polyrhythmic trio arrangements. Elias uses a silky-light touch that makes the notes skip from the keyboard like reflected light. It’s a quality to which jazz aficionados often assign a feminine quality (as in “plays like a girl”), but in Elias’s case gender has nothing to do with it: the music’s airiness comes from the scintillating undulations of her native Sao Paolo, Brazil, and the urban patois that created bossa nova in the nation’s south (as opposed to Bahia, the Afrocentric northern capital of bossa nova’s more heavily rhythmic precursors). But her roots extend equally to the classical music on which she trained and to the American jazz recordings she heard from childhood on. Bundling it all together, Elias inventively recasts her homeland’s music, spinning intercontinental fables from her pan-American vantage point. Saturday, 8 PM, Ramsey Auditorium, Wilson Hall, Fermilab, Kirk and Pine, Batavia; 708-840-2787.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/J.R. Duran.