Monday, April 15, 2013
Concert Review: The Eliane Elias Trio at the Folly Theater
Eliane Elias, one of the world's foremost practitioners of Brazilian jazz, slipped off her black high heels as she took a seat at the piano on the stage of the Folly Theater on Saturday. The subtle gesture reflected the tenor of her concert for an audience of over 700. Elias' performance was a pleasing combination of studied elegance and earthy rambunctiousness.
Elias, 53, has been impressing fans for decades. She recounted how Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, musical giants of her native Brazil, invited her to join them on an international tour when she was 17.
"I learned the Brazilian bossa nova from the creators," Elias said.
She would later note that her forthcoming tribute to Chet Baker is her 23rd album as a leader. Along with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Mauricio Zottarelli, Elias played a mix of instrumental and vocal material Saturday.
Elias exhibited her lush sensibility on the sensual "B Is For Butterfly." An exuberantly extravagant pianist, Elias is predisposed to florid embellishment. Just when Elias' airy excursion threatened to fade into the ether, she circled back to the pragmatic foundation constructed by Johnson and Zottarelli. The playful "Bowing to Bud," another original selection, further demonstrated Elias' formidable skill as a composer.
Explaining that she was suffering from bronchitis and laryngitis, Elias apologized for the the quality of her singing. Yet the additional huskiness in her voice enhanced the achingly romantic "Fotographia." A joyous rendition of "Isto Aquí O Que É" seemed to illuminate the Folly with the warm glow of South American sunshine. The illusion wouldn't have been possible without the melodic bounce provided by Johnson. His sound became a prominent force in jazz when Johnson became the final bassist in the Bill Evans Trio. After Evans died in 1980, Johnson forged an impressive career as a solo artist and as a valued collaborator. He and Elias are married.
Johnson's unaccompanied version of "Nardis" served as an exemplary demonstration of the profoundly emotive capacity of his instrument. The bassist's roots in American jazz contrasted with Zotttarelli's emphasis on the rhythms of his native Brazil. Rather than resulting in a rhythmic jumble, the juxtaposition gave the trio an intriguing tension. Perhaps aware that he'd be given an extended solo near the conclusion of the concert, Zottarelli played with selfless precision.
Zottarelli's thunderous showcase brought a handful of people to their feet, but the swing-based rendition of the familiar melody of "Desafinado" that concluded the second set was the clear favorite of the audience. Elias wore her shoes as she and her bandmates took a well-deserved bow.
Here's Libby Hanssen's review of the concert for The Kansas City Star.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)