Eliane Elias celebrates 100 years of samba with Jazz Aspen
If You Go …
What: Eliane Elias: 100 Years of Samba
Where: JAS Café at the Aspen Art Museum
When: Friday, Aug. 18, 7 & 9:15 p.m.
Over the first three decades of her recording career, Eliane Elias made more than 20 albums and became one of the world’s foremost Brazilian jazz artists.
But until two years ago, the pianist and singer had never gone home to Brazil to make a record.
She changed that in 2015, when she headed back to Sao Paolo to make the appropriately titled “Made in Brazil.” It went on to win the Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album. And she returned home to make the follow-up “Dance of Time,” released in March. Working there, and recording with local musicians and her husband and drummer Marc Johnson, she was steeped in the culture of Brazilian jazz and samba.
“Of course, Brazil has never left my heart, but it’s different,” Elias said, calling from a recent tour break at her beach house in East Hampton, N.Y.
“You are surrounded by our musical culture and colleagues that are Brazilian that live there, that are speaking Portuguese, the whole environment is Brazil. The energy was great and it can’t be any more authentic than that.”
Elias is bringing that energy to Aspen this weekend, headlining two shows at the JAS Café at the Aspen Art Museum tonight. The shows are billed as “100 Years of Samba,” celebrating the history of samba with songs from “Dance of Time” and “Made in Brazil,” along with some additional classics she’s put her own spin on.
The new record includes Elias renditions of classic Brazilian jazz tunes like “Sambou Sambou,” “O Pato” and “Coisa Feta” (and a fresh take of “Copacabana”). For the original composition “By Hand (Em Maos)” she’s worked up a new arrangement for concerts that she says has been going over extremely well at recent live gigs.
Traditionally sambas are played on guitar or other string instruments, but the form suits Elias’s inimitable style just fine. She started playing the piano at age 7 and early on, she said, Elias developed a style for playing sambas on the piano where she plays the rhythm with her left hand, carrying the melody with her right.
“Playing this music feels completely natural to me as a pianist and singer,” she said.
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