by Ashante Infantry
Toronto Star, July 3, 2009
Pianist-singer Eliane Elias, 49, makes her TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival debut at Nathan Phillips Square tomorrow. Her latest disc, "Bossa Nova Stories," is comprised of well-known and obscure Brazilian tunes, as well as American standards. Equally well-versed in classical and jazz tradition, Elias excelled as an instrumentalist before adding vocals. The Toronto Star caught up with the Brazilian-born, New York-based performer by phone from her native Sao Paulo, where she was visiting relatives and composing new songs.
Q: I'm surprised you're getting any work done amongst all those friends and relatives you don't see very often.
A: I used to love to write music at night when everybody goes to sleep and I would stay up really late hours. Now that's changed; seems like I wake up with the ideas. I'm inspired here: the sound of my language, the people that I grew up with, everywhere the Brazilian culture and music. I get so creative and I run to the piano and start writing. I've been working mostly in the mornings, then I take the rest of the day and spend it with the family.
Q: Do you consider yourself equally singer and pianist?
A: I think I will always feel like a pianist first. The piano is the continuity of my body, of my soul. It's the way that I express myself fully. I don't feel boundaries. But voice is the most intimate way of communicating, of telling a story, and it's something I enjoy doing so much.
Q: Now that your daughter Amanda (with ex-husband and trumpeter Randy Brecker) is making music, are you hands off with her or full of advice?
A: She writes music so beautifully, she sings so beautifully. She did her first album and one of the songs was placed in a TV series in Japan and got to No. 1. Her second album is a tribute to Brazilian, a little bit of a tribute to her mom. I never was the person who taught her music. I don't believe in parents teaching their children; they don't take it seriously. So, she always had a piano teacher, but I was there to sit by her side when she practised. All that I am is basically supportive of whatever she wants to do. It's all her ideas, her style, her way of doing it.
Q: That's a glamorous, sexy image you're showing off in the photos with your new record.
A: It's not something premeditated. I believe sensuality is innate to a person. And it has nothing to do with beauty. Sometimes, someone is not beautiful, but she's got something -- and you say she's got that thing. I have been described as having that thing. I don't know. I was blessed with the Brazilian figure.
Q: The bikini-ready body?
A: I have that naturally. My mom is 70 and she has an incredible figure, the skin and everything. It's not like anyone is trying to manufacture me, or retouch me and make me thin. You come see me and you're going to see that's how I am. I like to look good. I like nice clothes. I'm a romantic person. I like sensuality and the music reflects that.