October 1998

Fire and

Eliane Elias adds new punch to her already explosive arsenal of talent with the release of her second tribute to Antônio Carlos Jobim. In informed jazz circles Eliane Elias is considered to be one of the most evolving composers, pianists, producers, and leaders to come along in many years. With the release of Sings Jobim, vocalist can be added to the list.

Bruce Gilman

Undeniably, time and over-exposure has diverted continued appreciation of Antônio Carlos Jobim's music and turned bossa nova into a cliché. For years, beautiful tunes like "Wave" and "Garota de Ipanema" have been piped into supermarkets, dental offices, and even into elevators via Muzak. The term "elevator music" was applied to the music of Tom Jobim. Nonetheless, devotees of Jobim's music continue to promote it. One staunch advocate is an overwhelmingly creative pianist, composer, and producer, who moved to the United States in 1981, preceded by tales of greatness.

By arranging and recording a volume of Jobim classics, Eliane Elias has once again permitted listeners to hear the familiar with a warming appreciation of the discrete parts that Jobim so mysteriously united. For this latest outing on the Blue Note label, Eliane has chosen the perfect sidemen: Michael Brecker, Marc Johnson, Paulo Braga, and Oscar Castro-Neves, who hasn't sounded this cocksure since his work on the landmark recording Elis & Tom.

As is typical of Eliane's work, the arrangements are incredibly intricate while at the same time sounding deceptively simple. Fledgling musicians attempting to play along with these "familiar" tunes will soon realize how many modulations and chordal alterations Elias utilizes without drawing attention to them. She extracts from each composition everything that Jobim put into them and infuses them with a richness that draws out their finer subtleties and increasingly complex harmonic overtones while retaining that distinctive Jobim sound.

Elias was a child prodigy who had been spared that special hell reserved for artists who force their talents too early by her penchant for transcribing Art Tatum and Bud Powell solos from recordings. When Eliane first paraded her technical skills in the United States, she amazed musicians and non-musicians alike. They marveled at her dazzling right-hand runs, executed often at frightening speed. Her command of the keyboard was total. Her harmonic sensibility caused a sense of wonderment among other pianists on the New York scene.

Harmonically, she was advanced despite the developments that were being made by players like Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea. Her predilection for changes of key baffled some, but there was no denying her constant retention of melodic interest in whatever piece of music she was playing. Jazz greats frequented New York clubs to listen, in apparent abject disbelief and no little admiration, to this sweet young girl unleash her pyrotechnical skills. At twenty-one she had an overwhelming command of everything from up-tempo numbers to ballads, great harmonic insight, monumental swing, and the passion of her Brazilian roots.

In informed jazz circles today Eliane Elias is considered to be one of the most evolving composers, pianists, producers, and leaders to come along in many years, and with the release of Sings Jobim, vocalist can be added to the list. One New York pianist told me that the Sings album is just another example of the record label's cockamamie marketing schemes. "Poof! Transform Eliane into a singer and sell more CD's!" But Blue note has always been the first label to recognize and record real jazz talent, and more often than not they have blazed a trail in jazz which was later traveled by other labels.

I've been a big fan of Eliane's ever since that first album with Steps Ahead (1983), so naturally Sings Jobim has been in my CD player lately, and the best way I've found to approach Eliane's debut as a vocalist is with open ears and a sense of wonder. If nothing else, reverence arises from humility and from the capacity to get out of one's own ego and to listen. When I spoke to Eliane, I was struck by how exceptionally alert, unpretentious, and candid she is.

Brazzil—A friend of mine describes your playing as a cross between Egberto Gismonti and Bud Powell. Which pianists have influenced your playing the most?

Eliane—Most people relate or compare to things that they know, to pianists that they know. People have told me, "Oh, you sound like Keith Jarrett," or "You sound like Bill Evans." But I've been influenced by a number of pianists, especially as a young girl, starting with Art Tatum and Bud Powell and going to Wynton Kelly, and I can go on... Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett...

Brazzil—It's interesting that you mentioned Bill Evans because both Eddie Gomez and Marc Johnson worked with him. Do these players bring something to your music that you admired in the music of Bill Evans?

Eliane—You know, I've known these players for years. I know how they play. I was very, very familiar with their music when I moved here. Depending on what direction I want to take the music, I will call a specific player. Eddie Gomez and Marc Johnson are wonderful bassists. They are wonderful jazz players, but they are also very melodic. Marc Johnson especially has an intonation that is just absolutely perfect. You know, that classical training mixed with all the jazz. And there are certain things that I write that require somebody who can execute the part, but who also will create things when we are playing other tunes. It's a very hard chair to fill in my trio because you not only have to be a jazz player, but you have to know the music of Brazil.

Brazzil—And the percussion chair in your rhythm sections is always held by one of the drum world's aristocracy: Naná Vasconcelos, Perter Erskine, Jack DeJohnette. Are these the players in the United States with the best concept of Brazilian rhythm?

Eliane—When I recorded with Jack DeJohnette, for example, my intention was to do those Brazilian numbers as jazz tunes, as a looser thing. I wasn't looking for the complete, authentic Brazilian drummer. On the new recording I called Paulo Braga who is Brazilian, and who's authentic. He has the sound that I wanted for that particular recording, the sound I wanted when I was singing, when I wanted bossa nova to be played the way it should be played. Paulo, I think, is really the greatest Brazilian drummer. So it depends on the music that I write and what I'm looking for. And it can happen the other way around too. If I know that I'm going to be touring with Perter Erskine and Marc Johnson, I might be inspired to write things that I know would be great to play with them. And the same with Eddie and Jack and other players. I think, "All right! This will be great with them. Let me write something for that trio." I can do it that way or write first and then choose the musicians for the recording.

Brazzil—You dedicated a tune on So Far So Close to a great bass player who in 1987 met a senseless and violent death. Can you tell me a little about your composition "Straight Across"?

Eliane—That's a tune I dedicated to Jaco Pastorius, and I still think it's very interesting. Harmonically speaking, "Straight Across" is kind of modal, but it's not like a Weather Report tune. It's something that had to do mostly with the way Jaco played, and if you notice on the recording, I'm also playing the bass line on keyboards. It was great because I had Michael (Brecker) and Peter Erskine playing the other parts, and, of course, they both worked a lot with Jaco. Jaco was an inspiration.

Brazzil—Has working in the U.S. created any barriers for you as far as keeping up with what is currently happening in Brazilian music?

Eliane—Not really, because I go to Brazil often, like two or three times a year. And I'm in touch, you know? I'm pretty much aware of things that go on, especially with the things that interest me musically. I might not know the latest pop group because perhaps I'm not searching for that, but I am aware of what is happening in general with the country's music. And you know, I'm always back, so I still feel that I haven't created any barriers. If anything, living in the U.S. has created a kind of nostalgia for me here and there. I miss my country and my language; it's so inspiring there. The sound of the birds... they sing differently. The time of the place and the people... It's just different, and I do miss that aspect of it. That's why I go as much as I can.

Brazzil—How is your career perceived by players in Brazil?

Eliane—In terms of pianists in Brazil, the ones I know there always look at me as an example, as someone who did something and got out of the country. It's difficult to leave Brazil, come here, and establish a career. They admire that. I think I have inspired a lot of people, not only musically but especially in a personal way like, "Oh, this is a goal that I have to reach." It's something I think they look at and say, "Oh, great, she did it. I'd like to do it." But I'm sure that young players have many, many idols, many fine players that they listen to.

Brazzil—You mentioned that Herbie Hancock was one of your influences. How was it working with him on your Grammy nominated CD, Solos and Duets?

Eliane—When we were scheduled to record, he arrived the night before, very late, around midnight, and he came over to my place and said, "So what are we going to do?" And I said, "Well, let's just go and play." I told him that the only tune I knew I wanted to do for sure was "The Way You Look Tonight." So we got there, and it was really magic. I don't remember if I was right or left channel, but we were one on each side, you know, like the speakers, right? And when we went to listen afterward, we didn't know who was who. It was really like one... completely. It was like our creation right there. I got goose bumps when I listened to some of the free pieces, like one called "Messages" where we just started playing and really let go and played free improvisation. The ideas were flowing. Herbie named it "Messages" because he felt that we were really communicating. Working with him was a great musical experience. Really beautiful.

Brazzil—When did you first meet Herbie?

Eliane—I met Herbie in 1981 when I was touring with Steps Ahead. We were playing a double tour with V.S.O.P. (1). Steps would play first, and Herbie would go to the first row in the theater and sit there listening to me play. And he loved it! I used to tell him, "I study your music. I love your playing," and all that. He was always one of my idols. I was just a young girl, and I was playing on the same bill as Herbie Hancock, working together! He was so kind. We started doing more and more concerts together, and over time we became more like friends, like musicians, less like the idol and the young girl.

When I recorded my first CD, he went out there and told every magazine, "I like Eliane Elias. Her playing is great. She brings me to tears." He really was so supportive. So I've always been thankful, first, for his music, it's so wonderful; and second, for the incentive and the support that he gave me when my career just started. It was rare because so many people just... You know how people can be. We always wanted to play together, but the opportunity didn't come until we recorded the duet album.

Brazzil—Chick Corea recently released a CD of Bud Powell's music, and Danilo Perez did one of Monk's. If you were to record a tribute to an American pianist/composer, who would you choose?

Eliane—Ah... I don't know. I mean Cole Porter has some great tunes. You know, I love Bud Powell. I would prefer to record Bud Powell than Monk.

Brazzil—What's your take on Monk?

Eliane—Well, very interesting. You're going to laugh at this because when I was in Brazil, I had a great collection of records, but I didn't know, for example, the ages of the players, when they came out. I knew Art Tatum was older. Oh, and I had (Oscar) Peterson too. You know, I had all those guys. I was listening to everybody. And I heard Monk, and I said, "Oh my God! Who is this guy? He's so sloppy, and he's got no chops. He has no technique. So sloppy!" I mean, I was comparing him to, you know, to Art Tatum or to Herbie or to Keith Jarrett. My take was like, "Huh?! Interesting." But the way he played, you know, to me at that time, was sloppy (laughs). But I know he's great. Great stuff. Created another style, and you know...

Brazzil—Can you tell me a little about working with Vinícius?

Eliane—Something interesting. I was invited to work with him and Toquinho in 1978. And I worked with Vinícius until he died. I was a very young girl, and it was a really great experience. I mean, Vinícius was not only a great lyricist, he was a great poet, and a great diplomat. A very intelligent man, very sensible, very sensitive and wise. And his view of life was... He had a different take than most people do, very different. And I think that, not just musically but personally too, sharing years on the road with somebody like that, sure did something to me in terms of my view of life. Really, I was very fortunate.

Brazzil—Jobim is a dominant thread on your Blue Note recordings. Do you feel Jobim's music will continue to hold up over the next 50 years?

Eliane—You know, it's so hard to predict what's going to hold up. We never know. These days the adolescents are listening to something else. We have a new generation here that's very different. But I still believe that bossa nova is sensuous. There is something about it that is just so great that people relate to. Jobim's songs are just... He's a great composer. I believe that he is Brazil's best composer, like the father of our standards. So far it has been like that. It's hard to say if it's going to continue. That depends on who's going to continue playing his music the way it should be played. Not many people do. His music, in a certain way, is very complex, but it can sound very simple. And because it can be done in a simple way, it is also music that is played everywhere by different... You know, I can walk into a hotel and hear it in the lobby. I can walk into a great jazz musician's set and hear it. I mean you hear it in different ways because he reached such a wide audience. And who's going to continue doing it is going to be interesting. Will it hold up in fifty years? I don't know, but I hope so.

Brazzil—Which is your favorite Jobim recording?

Eliane—I don't have one only. I like all of his recordings, so it's almost impossible to name just one. Some tunes from Elis and Tom are magnificent. The Composer Plays had great tunes. Oh, he has so much that it's hard to say one. He has a beautiful album with arrangements by Claus Ogerman, Urubu. Beautiful! I was so young when it came out, but I was so impressed when I heard it.

Brazzil—I've heard some people say that the idea for Sings Jobim was a Blue Note marketing scheme to sell more CD's.

Eliane—That's interesting. You know, people... (laughs) That's interesting how they put things. Blue Note's idea? You know, I wasn't forced. I haven't been forced in my career to do anything that I didn't want to do. And I wouldn't, over anything. Everything that I have done, every project that I have accepted, whether it was my idea or not, was because I wanted to do it. You know how many CD's I have out, right? I have used my voice on more than a few tunes, sometimes just using my voice as another color, sometimes as an instrument doing parts, things like that. But I always... you know... slowly I brought the voice in. I've never seen myself, and I don't, as just a singer. I'm not a singer. I'm a pianist, a composer. But I can sing something here and there. Not like a singer with a powerful voice, but in my own style, in my own way. You know, putting my feelings through a tune. Yeah, I'll do that. No problem, right?

No, what was happening was that every time I performed, my fans, afterward, always asked, "Is there going to be some day when you're going to sing a little more? We'd love to hear you sing. Can you sing one for us please? Sing one for us please. Is there going to be a day when you are going to do a special project, an album singing, just so we can hear your voice?" This has been happening for years, and I had already recorded my tribute to Jobim, years ago when he was alive. I like tributes to be done for people when they are alive, more than after the fact—they appreciate things then. But I got to a point where I felt like, "Ah, I've done solo piano, the duets with Herbie, things as a composer, recordings where I used synthesizers. I've done trio playing. The Three Americas was something different. I'm known to be very diverse. My CD's are very different—one from the other. And why? because all those sides are genuine sides, they are true sides of me. You know, I am Brazilian. There are some recordings that are Brazilian. I'm a jazz player. Yes, I'm a classical player. I have a classical CD. So I felt that I wanted to do an album singing. Not a statement of "Here's a singer," but here's how I'm thinking, okay? And when I decided to do that, what came to my mind was, "Who do I know best as a composer? What music can I do well, something that I'm very comfortable with? Ahh... Jobim." So, no, I wasn't forced.

Brazzil—Your vocals are beautiful on "Falando de Amor."

Eliane—Oh, you know, I think it's such a beautiful tune, so much Brazil and not something that has been done a lot. But if you noticed, I chose an interesting combination of tunes. Some are very well known, but a lot of them are obscure tunes that I felt I should bring to the people here in the United States. And "Falando de Amor" is a special tune. The lyrics are so beautiful. I really love that one. It's very, very... It's almost like that Brazilian nostalgia.

Brazzil—Are you bothered by comparisons to Astrud Gilberto?

Eliane—You know, that was the first statement I made. People compare to what they know. If that's what they know, that's what they are going to say. You know, I had... I'm not even going to repeat that one... When I first recorded, people would say, "Oh, Tania Maria." Tania is great, but she has nothing to do with my work. People compare with what they know. Again, we have to understand that Astrud had a big hit here. She made "The Girl From Ipanema" with Stan Getz, a very famous song in this country. That recording is actually very special. Internationally it was Jobim's biggest hit. Astrud is Brazilian and also has a kind of soft, hoarse voice, so people will say, "Oh, Eliane sounds like that." People tend to associate and it's okay.

Brazzil—After listening to "Modinha" on the new CD I went back and listened to versions by Zizi Possi, Ney Matogrosso, Elis, and even the one you did with Joe Henderson. It's almost like a rite of passage for players to cover this tune.

Eliane—"Modinha"? Yeah, you know, I think that tune is so beautiful, so special. I like the tune a lot. I did a piano treatment for it and an introduction. You can hear some of my classical there. You can hear Brazil there. All I can say is that I usually search the deepest place in my heart when I'm working, and I love this tune. It's a very difficult song to sing. It has a very large vocal extension, really, really a big extension for the voice. It's demanding, and I feel very proud about the way it came out.

Brazzil—My favorite track on the new CD is "A Felicidade."

Eliane—Oh yeah. It came out nice didn't it?

Brazzil—That's the one! Such a great groove, and Brecker sounds.

Eliane—He sounds great. Oh yeah!

Brazzil—Was the recording atmosphere any different for this track?

Eliane—Well, I always try to keep, as I do in every tune, the authenticity. My idea was that Brecker would be almost like a samba school on saxophone. Rhythmically that was the idea. Also harmonically there are some things that I changed that came out nicely. I just worked the arrangement in a certain way, you know, I used some modulations, some different colors.

Brazzil—Tell me.

Eliane—Well, if you really pay attention to the places when it goes to the verses there are a couple of modulations. When I come into (sings) Tristeza não tem fim, it's in one key, then it modulates to another. Then something interesting happens with (sings) Felicidade sim. A felicidade é como a. It goes down. It's really in order to get the key for me because it was a big extension, and it's very interesting. You have to listen for it. You'll hear it.

Brazzil—Which tune was the hardest to record?

Eliane—If you mean hard in terms of singing, there are some songs that were hard in general, and they took a lot of my concentration and preparation, but they came out really nice, "Ano Dourado" (Looks Like December), for example. When Jobim recorded that tune, he sang a part that was very low, and a female choir sang the very high part. It has another huge extension and the phrasing is not easy. "Falando de Amor" is another tune that... It wasn't physical, but I wanted to capture all this emotion. I did the take for "Esquecendo Você" playing the piano and singing, and I played a piano solo.

It's a very special tune and wasn't hard, but it is a tune I love. And while recording, I started crying, "Ooooh!" When I came out they were all saying, "It's beautiful!" But I said, "No! I cried. I don't want to have that on a record!" They were screaming, "Are you crazy? With that much emotion, you're not going to touch this!" It took me a minute to let go, to share that much emotion, to let people have something that I was putting so much into; but it's there.

Brazzil—You've started to play a circuit of Performing Arts Centers. How do these venues affect a performance differently than the clubs and jazz festivals?

Eliane—Well, I must say that every performance is different. There is always a difference. When you play a club, it's a very intimate atmosphere, and it can be a lot of fun. When you play a concert hall, it's also great though the communication with the audience is on a different level. But the sound, you know... it's inspiring. I think playing the outdoor festivals is the hardest thing for a piano trio. It's not hard for me, but if it's too hot, the piano gets out of tune, and the sound, the acoustics, are usually problematic. Unless the sound people are really together and they have really great, great equipment, they tend to over-amplify the acoustic instruments. Many times they have great equipment, but they don't have a great sound person; or they have a great sound person, but they don't have the equipment.

So, I very much enjoy playing the theaters, and I've never had a problem, whether the audience is coming to see me because they know Eliane or they're coming to check me out for the first time. It's hard to find better sound than the concert halls. In other respects, I can't say that the performing arts circuits are doing anything that is so different. If people like music, I know that they are going to enjoy the show, and it's going to be great. And if they don't like music then they don't go to the theaters (laughs). Most of the time it's just great. But every performance is very, very different.

Brazzil—Getting back to Blue Note, you know Herbie recorded for Blue Note and Horace Silver, McCoy Tyner…

Eliane—Jazz history.

Brazzil—Yea, they've always had the reputation for finding, recognizing, and recording the talent before someone else did. I noticed that other Blue Note pianists like Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba have also started playing the Performing Arts circuit. Was this something encouraged by Blue Note or was it something these artists individually decided?

Eliane—Well, I think it's not even a matter of you deciding. I think many musicians would like to get into the circle. It's difficult to get into. But it does not have anything to do with Blue Note hooking us up. Of course, they love to see their artists performing. I think every company would like to see their artists touring as much as they can and being out there playing the music. The best way to promote a CD is to be out there playing. There's nothing like touring, but Blue Note doesn't hook me up with that. There is an agency that I have been associated with that specializes in working with the performing arts programs.

Brazzil—You've obviously paid your dues in the predominantly male world of jazz, so I was wondering if you are bothered at all by the way Blue Note packages your recordings. You know, the covers always portray you as this sexy Brazilian babe with the bedroom-eyes in the off the shoulder outfits?

Eliane—Well, first of all, I thank you for saying that. But I don't perceive it that way. I don't think they try to make me more or less beautiful. If you meet me, if you go to my performances, I look like I look. I look like the covers. And after all, I could just wear jeans and a shirt, but my face is my face. I mean, it's unusual enough to be a woman in jazz, but it's even more unusual to be a blonde Brazilian, white woman jazz musician with an attractive face, and then on top of that, with a nice figure. People say, "The record company is doing that," but Blue Note doesn't make me look like that. I look like that if you meet me on the street. I like to dress, you know, I like to... How can I say this? I'm not a person who wears executive suits. I dress, you know, in mini skirts... I'm Brazilian!

So, they haven't done anything. I think the Sings Jobim cover is beautiful. The blue is radiant; it's very Brazil. I mean, okay, the face looks good. Well okay, thank you if you think it looks good. But there has never been anything that insinuates... Ah, you know... I can guarantee you that when it comes down to it, Blue Note doesn't keep any artist for an album cover. They have dropped so many artists. The music is what has to sell, and it has to communicate with people in order to sell. And if it doesn't then... Obviously, they prefer that I look good than I don't. Maybe ten years from now the covers will be just like the all other ones you see (laughs). They probably will be like that later on, but right now I enjoy saying, "Oh, okay, it looks nice for people," and I'm proud.

Brazzil—Do you have any unfulfilled goals as a player or composer?

Eliane—Oh yea, many things.

Brazzil—Tell me.

Eliane—But I don't want to tell you (laughs). I'll give you all my ideas. No, I'm kidding. There are many things that I'd like to do. I'd love to record with an orchestra. I haven't done that. I'd love to do that.

Brazzil—Like a concerto?

Eliane—No, no, like piano trio and orchestra. I'd love to do that. I'm doing something now that I've always wanted to do. I'm recording six of my own compositions with a twenty-two piece big band. Bob Brookmeyer did all the arrangements. It's one of the things I've wanted to do because I love big bands too. I'd like to expand my group and go into more quintet and sextet playing, which I'm starting to do, especially live. I'd also like to write for string quartet. Oh, there are so many things. And I'm about to do another classical record. There is so much Villa-Lobos that I want to record. This is what is really so great about musicians. The time passes and there is always something more that you want to do, and that keeps you going. If I told you, "No, there's nothing more that I want to do," then I'd be done. I hope it all happens. You know, I hope I get the chance.

Brazzil—Will the big band recording be coming out soon?

Eliane—It's going to come out probably within the next six months.

Brazzil—On Blue Note?

Eliane—No, I didn't do it for Blue Note. I recorded in Europe.

Brazzil—Can you tell me the label?

Eliane—Not yet, because we're signing now. I cannot tell you when it will be out until I receive the contracts.

Brazzil—What do you think is most important for up-and-coming jazz players to focus on today?

Eliane—You know, I still believe that success is a combination, which I can't explain in a few words. But it's a combination of talent, effort, and personality. I think it's very important for young players to study conventional theory, to become familiar with all the jazz vocabulary, and to absorb the music of jazz's major influences—the different ways, the different approaches. But I also think that trying to develop their own voice is something very, very, important—and that happens with time— because there are so many musicians. Many of the greatest players could be recognized before they were widely respected artists. I'm sure if you heard a tape of Herbie Hancock when he was fifteen years old, you'd know that was a young Herbie. There was something there already, and he developed it. I think that's very important. It's perseverance; it's dedication. It's a combination of all that and, of course, talent.

Brazzil—Eliane, do your students at Manhattan School of Music ever ask you about the implications of a life dedicated to earning a living from music?

Eliane—They are anxious about what they are going to do when they graduate. They are definitely anxious. But I tell them, "People are different, and there are many careers in music. Not everyone coming out of a great music college is going to be a great performer, a jazz player. There are some that are going to be teachers. There are some who are going to write scores," you know? There are so many different things that one can do with music. I think they would all like to be performing artists, but there are other things that they can do with their music. That's what I tell them. "Just keep working on it. Keep your eyes open for what you can do. Hopefully, you will establish yourself." It's not easy; not every musician coming out of a college is going to become established as a performing musician.

Brazzil—If you had to create a list of required listening for students of jazz piano at the university level, which three recordings would definitely be on that list?

Eliane—You know, I don't like answering that kind of question. Let me tell you why. If you wanted to know what three recordings I like or that influenced my playing the most, I could try to think of three that were among my collection. But depending on the level of the student, what they need to listen to could be completely different. Students who need to work on their bebop might have to listen to Bud Powell. To those students who need work on the melodic or harmonic aspects of their playing I might say, "Let's work on Bill Evans." And to the one who doesn't know how to place eighth notes, you know, how to swing, I might say, "Okay, let's hear this." You see, it depends on the individual student, so it would be a funny quote. You know what I mean?

Brazzil—Completely, yeah. Eliane, what was the most important lesson you learned from Amilton Godoy?

Eliane—Oh, I studied everything. I started when I was thirteen, and I studied it all. He was a great man. If I would tell you about him, it would take two or three hours just to explain what we did. He's a great teacher. He really went searching and searching, for me especially; he saw some talent. I was different from other students because I went very quickly. I finished the program when I was fifteen. I just devoured everything I could. When I went to Amilton, I was already transcribing the great solos of all the great jazz pianists and playing along with them. You know, copying down, I mean, writing, writing. But, he developed my vocabulary. He gave me the skills and all the theory. Really, it was unbelievable, a great, great experience.

Brazzil—I can't even imagine a musician in the U.S. who plays choro going to Rio and establishing a career, but in a sense, you did something similar when you came to New York. Was it hard to make the transition from playing in Brazil to the scene in the United States?

Eliane—No, not really. It was easy. That's what I had been preparing for. It was who I was and when I could finally be what I was (laughs). It really was what I wanted. When I was playing at home, I'd ask myself, "Where am I going to do this? In Rio?" I mean, "Let me go to the U.S." It was no problem. When I came up here, I was already playing straight ahead and was probably listening to more straight ahead than any American keyboard player. I had a huge collection at home, and I had been devouring it.

Brazzil—Did you see many similarities between São Paulo and New York?

Eliane—Oh, incredible how many. I felt so comfortable in New York, although I didn't speak English. But I felt that it was a city that I could always like. São Paulo is so huge. I mean, New York looked like a little town with little numbers. If you stay in Manhattan, you see streets that have little numbers and avenues. It was so small and not at all threatening to me. I constantly hear about Americans who speak the language, who were born here, and who are afraid of New York City. They must come from a calmer environment and a different kind of... São Paulo is a huge metropolis, cosmopolitan. There was no difference.

Brazzil—What did you study at Juilliard with Olegna Fuschi? Did you want to be a concert pianist?

Eliane—No, I never intended to be a concert pianist. I always had classical lessons in order to thoroughly develop my technique. With Olegna I did some great work approaching the piano as a string instrument more than a percussion instrument. We worked with the concept of legato playing.

Brazzil—Are there any schools in Brazil similar to Berklee School of Music?

Eliane—Yes, the one I went to. CLAM—Centro Livre de Aprendizagem Musical, which means Free Center of Musical Apprenticeship.

Brazzil—Has your approach changed since your tenure with Steps Ahead?

Eliane—Sure. We are always in transformation. People are in constant mutation. We change. I think the core of the musician is the same, but I think the approach does change. It may be the same person, the same heart and intention, but there is a maturity. There are different experiences. Yes, it has changed.

Brazzil—Eliane, aside from music, what are you passions?

Eliane—(laughs) Ah, you know, music is a great passion. Music also is my profession, so there are times that I need to get a little bit away from the piano, but not from music. I love nature, so I go to the country. I have a country home in the Hamptons, and I like going there. I swim. I connect with nature, the plants. I listen to the birds. It's just something special that I like. I like yoga. And I travel so much that when I actually have time off, I like best just to be home. I like to cook. You know, a nice meal, very simple, not anything extravagant. I like the simplicity of life and nature and a nice meal. I cannot do a lot of sports. I cannot play tennis. I cannot play volleyball because of my wrists, because of my hands. Those are things I can't do. But I love spending time with my daughter, Amanda. She's fourteen and doing things with her, you know, it's just great.

Brazzil—I know that your grandmother wrote chorinhos and your mother was a concert pianist. Would you be disappointed if Amanda didn't pursue a career in music?

Eliane—No, you know, as a mother, all that I want for her is that she does something that she loves, that she's happy with. I'm sure that when you love what you do, you become successful. Success transpires through what you do with heart; it shows in your work. And if Amanda decides not to be a musician, that means that she didn't have that love for music, the enthusiasm about it; and that's fine. I wouldn't want her to do what she doesn't want to do. But she's so talented. Playing great too.

Brazzil—She has a good teacher.

Eliane—Yes, but I'm not her teacher. I don't believe in… not even at this age. They have to get it from outside. What I can teach her she can hear. I mean it's in her. I'll teach her other things when she gets older.

Brazzil—Do you think Amanda's relationship with her parents is different from other kids who have parents with demanding careers? (2)

Eliane—Oh, I'm sure. I think it's different having parents who are artists, who are people that work with their creativity all the time. And there is a certain sensibility to that. There is something that she is exposed to. The kind of life that she has... Yes, it's different. Our relationship is a very close one because when we're home, we're really home. I'm with her and she's part of that environment, the creative environment that surrounds us. She understands that and is a big part of it herself.

Brazzil—Is there anything I haven't asked that you would like to pass on to the readers?

Eliane—No! (laughs) You've asked me more than I'm usually asked in interviews. (laughs) I think you covered it all.

Brazzil—Great. Thank you so much, Eliane. It was a pleasure.

Eliane—For me too. Yes, thank you.

A Felicidade

Tom Jobim/Vinícius de Moraes

Tristeza não tem fim
Felicidade sim
Tristeza não tem fim
Felicidade sim

A felicidade é como a gota
De orvalho numa pétala de flor
Brilha tranqüila
Depois de leve oscila
E cai como uma lágrima de amor

A felicidade do pobre parece
A grande ilusão do carnaval
A gente trabalha o ano inteiro
Por um momento de sonho
Pra fazer a fantasia
De rei ou de pirata ou de jardineira
Pra tudo se acabar na quarta-feira

Tristeza não tem fim
Felicidade sim
Tristeza não tem fim
Felicidade sim

A felicidade é como a pluma
Que o vento vai levando pelo ar
Voa tão leve
Mas tem a vida breve
Precisa que haja vento sem parar

A minha felicidade está sonhando
Nos olhos da minha namorada
É como esta noite passando passando
Em busca da madrugada
Falem baixo por favor
Pra que ela acorde alegre com o dia
Oferecendo beijos de amor


Tom Jobim/Vinícius de Moraes

Sadness has no end
Happiness yes
Sadness has no end
Happiness yes

Happiness is like a drop
Of dew on a flower petal
It shines tranquilly
Then lightly oscillates
And falls like a tear of love

The happiness of the poor seems to be
The great illusion of Carnaval
People work all year long
For just a moment to dream
To make the costume
Of king or pirate or of gardener
But everything ends on Wednesday

Sadness has no end
Happiness yes
Sadness has no end
Happiness yes

Happiness is like a feather
The wind carries through the air
It flies so lightly
But has a brief life
It needs a wind without end

My happiness is dreaming
Of the eyes of my sweetheart
Like the night passing, passing
In search of the dawn 
Speak softly please
She needs to awaken happily with the day
Offering kisses of love



Tom Jobim/Vinícius de Moraes

Não! Não pode mais meu coração
Viver assim dilacerado
Escravizado a uma ilusão que é só
Ah, não seja a vida sempre assim
Como um luar deseperado
A derramar melancolia em mim
Poesia em mim

Vai, triste canção
Sai do meu peito e semeia emoção
Que chora dentro do meu coração

Love Song

No! No it cannot be my heart
To live in pieces
Enslaved to illusion that is only
Ah, life can't always be this way
Like desperate moonlight
To spread melancholy in my
Poetry in me

Go, sad song
Leave my heart and sow emotion
That cries inside my heart


Esquecendo Você

Tom Jobim

Eu vou ter que passar minha vida cantando uma só canção
Eu vou ter que aprender a viver sozinha na solidão
Eu vou ter que lembrar tantas vezes o riso do olhos seus
Eu vou ter que passar minha vida tentando esquecer este adeus

Eu vou ter que esquecer seu sorriso e o pranto dos olhos meus
Eu vou ter que esquecer seu olhar na hora do adeus

Eu vou ter que esquecer minha vida
Só você não percebe o porquê
Só vou ter que passar minha vida esquecendo você

Forgetting You

I have to spend my life singing only one song
I have to learn to live alone in solitude
I have to remember so many times the laughter of your eyes
I have to spend my life trying to forget this goodbye

I have to forget your smile and my weeping eyes
I have to forget your look at the time of goodbye

I have to forget my life
Only you don't realize why
I have to spend my life forgetting you



Tom Jobim/Newton Mendonça

Se você insiste em classificar
Meu comportamento de anti-musical
Eu mesmo mentindo devo argumentar
Que isso é bossa nova e que isso é muito natural
O que você não sabe nem se quer pressente
É que os desafinados também têm um coração
Fotografei você na minha Rolleiflex
Revelou-se a sua enorme ingratidão

Só não poderá falar assim do meu amor
Este é maior que você pode encontrar
Você com a sua música esqueceu o principal
Que no peito dos desafinados
No fundo do peito também bate calado
Que no peito dos desafinados
Também bate um coração

Out of Tune

If you insist on categorizing
My behavior as anti-musical
Even if I lied I should argue
That this is bossa nova and this is very natural
What you don't know, nor can you guess
Is that those who sing out of tune also have a heart
I photographed you with my Rolleiflex
It revealed your enormous ingratitude

You cannot talk this way about my love
It is the highest that you can find
You with your music, forget the essential
In the heart of those who sing out of tune
Deep in the breast, a heart also beats softly
In the heart of those out of tune
A heart is also beating

Selected Discography

Title ..................................Label .................Year

Sings Jobim .....................Blue Note ...........1998

Three Americas ...............Blue Note ..........1997

Solos and Duets............... Blue Note .........1995

Paulistana ........................Blue Note .........1993

On The Classical Side .......EMI Classics ....1993

Fantasia............................ Blue Note .........1992

Long Story......................... Blue Note .........1991

Plays Jobim........................ Blue Note......... 1990

So Far So Close.................. Blue Note .........1989

Cross Currents.................... Denon Records. 1987

Illusions ................................Denon Records. 1986

Selected Discography on sessions with other artists

Artist ........................Title .............................Label ..............Year

Various Artists ..........Wave: The Antonio .......Verve............. 1996
..................................Carlos Jobim Songbook

Joe Henderson........... Double Rainbow ...........Verve .............1995

Michael Franks........... Abandoned Garden ......Warner Bros. ..1995

The Brecker Brothers.. Out Of The Loop .........GRP Records ..1994

Toots Thielemans......... The Brasil Project, Vol. II Private Music. 1993

Toots Thielemans .........The Brasil Project...........Private Music ...1992

Toninho Horta ..............Once I Loved .................Verve .............1992

Ivo Perelman.................. IVO .............................K2B2 Records .1990

Peter Erskine................... Motion Poet................Denon Records ..1988

Randy Brecker/ ...............Amanda ...................Passport Records ..1986
Eliane Elias

Steps Ahead .....................Steps Ahead................... Elektra........... 1983

1. The group V.S.O.P. was formed under the aegis of Herbie Hancock in the mid-'70's, when he wanted a vacation from fusion; the line-up was the classic mid-'60's Miles quintet—Herbie, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Ron Carter, with Freddie Hubbard filling the Miles seat on trumpet. They recorded three albums on CBS, (usually listed under Hancock's name) one an import-only Japanese concert. The group's success as a draw on the live circuit in the late '70's lead directly to major labels dumping their fusion rosters and looking seriously at acoustic jazz again. Wynton Marsalis and the other young suits soon followed, a rather mixed blessing, if you ask me.

2. Amanda's father is jazz trumpet great Randy Brecker.

Bruce Gilman, music editor for Brazzil, received his Masters degree in music from California Institute of the Arts. He leads the Brazilian jazz ensemble Axé and plays cuíca for escola de samba MILA. You can reach him through his e-mail: 


There are lots of kids songs in public domain and you can find music like that all over the Internet for free, on music websites. Something else you can find are activities for your children, in case you have run out of activities for kids to have fun with.

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