Eliane Elias: Around the City (RCA)

eliane_elias.jpgSao Paulo-born, NYC-based vocalist/pianist/composer Eliane Elias is one of those musicians who, stylistically speaking, has something for almost everyone. She’s a virtuoso instrumentalist with a well-deserved global reputation - she was Tom Jobim’s musical director at the age of 17, and last year her beautifully eloquent piano on husband/jazz bassist Marc Johnson’s Shades of Jade was vital in elevating that release to classic status.

Elias’s newest album is a very radio-accessible, pop-skewed collection that pulsates seductively through hot covers and finely realized originals. Elias ventures further into vocal territory here, though her signature keyboard still manifests in rewarding bursts. Vocally, she still regards herself as an emerging artist; the rest of us can be grateful for her dusky gets-under-your-skin quality, which hovers somewhere in the range of Astrud Gilberto meets Sade.

Elias smoothly weaves elements of pop and jazz, Portuguese and English lyrics, into a sublime sonic concoction. The title song brings to mind what Arto Lindsay reaches for in his Brazil-inflected efforts. Tito Puente’s Latin chestnut “Oye Como Va,” at just over four minutes, leaves the listener craving more. Bob Marley’s “Jammin’” gets a total remake, and even Beck’s “Tropicalia” is in better hands than its creator’s here.

There isn’t a song on this collection that doesn’t engage. Summer may be over, but you can easily extend the vibe with Around the City. - Tali Madden

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Mr. Madden escaped New York a few decades ago, and still misses his egg creams. Aside from a brief flirtation with the Desert Southwest, he's been damply ensconced for half his life in Portland, Oregon. The freelance writer has written extensively on blues and jazz for outlets including the late Blues Access magazine, contributed to the MusicHound Blues and Jazz album guides, and produced and programmed jazz broadcasts for public radio.

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