Eliane Elias ‘Bossa Nova Stories’ (Blue Note) 4/5

This is the second album from Eliane Elias this year and this time is devoted to paying tribute to the fiftieth anniversary of the advent of bossa nova and pianist-singer Elias returns with an impressive homage that largely avoids the cliched pitfalls, and reinforces what a wonderful interpreter of the Brazilian repertoire she is. Carefully avoiding a tribute exclusively to Jobim (only three of his compositions are included), Elias showcases a number of other composers who were influential during the bossa period (Geraldo Pereira, Joao Donato, the great Joao Gilberto) as well as giving the bossa treatment to a few old chestnuts from the great American songbook. Using largely a Brazilian band of trio (Paulo Braga on drums, Marc Johnson on bass)plus Oscar Castro Neves on guitar and various guests plus British orchestrations from Abbey Road, Elias impresses on the pared down songs that use minimal or no orchestration. These include the wonderful ‘Falsa Baiana’ where Elias excels on vocals in Portugese, the delightful ‘Minha Saudade’ and the piano-led ‘A ra’ (’The frog’). Of course the better known pieces of the bossa songbook are not forgotten either and Elias delivers a cool version of ‘Girl from Ipanema’, a faithful take on ‘Desafinado’ and ‘Chega de Suadade’ for good measure. One cannot help but think that an artist as talented as Elias should be let loose on other post-bossa projects of Brazilian music and her ability to breath life into Brazilian ballads is ilustrated on the laid-back ‘Estate’ (’Summer’)that features Toots Thielmans on harmonica. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the inner and outer sleeve cover photos of the diva in pose. Eliane Elias is a musician of integrity who deserves to be heard in a variety of settings.

Tim Stenhouse