Eliane Elias: Inspiration that comes from silence

brasilobserver - Apr 14 2015
Photo: Philippe Soloman

(Leia em Português)

After the release of her 25th album, the Brazilian singer, songwriter and pianist prepares to perform at the Barbican and talks to Brasil Observer about her music and career


“Elias’ distinctive musical style blends her Brazilian roots and sensuous voice with instrumental jazz and classical composition.” This is how the Barbican describes the singer, composer and pianist who will be playing in London on 4 May.

And what a mixture for success these things are. Elias’ musical talents were evident from an early age. She started studying piano at age seven and at age twelve was giving perfect renditions of the great jazz masters. By the time she was fifteen, Eliane was teaching piano and improvisation at one of Brazil’s most prestigious music schools. Her performing career began in Brazil at age seventeen, working with Brazilian singer and songwriter Toquinho and the great poet Vinicius de Moraes. In 1981, she headed for New York, where she still lives collecting stories and awards thanks to an acclaimed and international musical career.

In total, Eliane Elias has recorded 25 albums. The most recent, Made in Brazil was released in late March. It was the first time she recorded most of the album in her native country, and in a very global touch fitting for an interview in this newspaper, she also made part of the record in London’s Abbey Road studio.

In this interview with Brasil Observer, Eliane Elias talks about her new album, the mixture of influences in her music career and reveals a surprising factor that’s important during her creative process: silence.

Even though you have been living away from Brazil for so long, how do you keep your connection to Brazilian culture?

Many of my albums include Brazilian music. Our music is part of my DNA. No matter where I am, my roots remain.

Many awards and nominations have given you a great global audience. How does this compare to your career in Brazil?

Awards are part of the recognition of a career, they do not always reflect the success of an artist. I feel proud to have an international career for so many years, doing concerts all over the world and reaching the top of the jazz charts with all my records. I cannot explain why, I’m not so well known or recognised In Brazil as I am internationally.

Can you tell us what you usually listen to?

I love silence! I always need it during the process of making music. I try to keep up with new releases of the genres that interest me musically, but in fact, when I’m working on an album, writing, recording, producing, in the middle of a very busy touring schedule, I prefer silence. This is where born my ideas, my compositions and arrangements.

Why do you mix Bossa Nova and Jazz in your music?

I have been living in New York for 33 years, since I was very young. In the beginning I established myself as a Jazz pianist and composer. I was accepted with open arms in the jazz world, working with the biggest names of the genre. Brazilian music has been incorporated. All my records bring improvisation: ones with Brazilian rhythms; others jazzier, others highlight the side of composition, others emphasise the vocals more. Bossa Nova is a great vehicle for Jazz and improvisation.

Can you describe the creative process for your new album?

First came the ideas, my arrangements and my compositions, as well as the choice of songs and the direction that the album would take. In these arrangements and these compositions I was interesting in working with musical collaborators to create the sound. It’s like painting – first you sketch and then choose the colours that are interesting in those compositions.

The album features has six of your own songs, and others by songs of Ary Barroso, Roberto Menescal and Tom Jobim, they’re all from different generations…

Yes. The album begins with a touch of history, the ‘samba exaltation’, through Bossa Nova and coming to my compositions, which reflect today’s music.

Some of the tracks were recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios. What was this process like?

In Brazil we did the compositions and arrangements, recorded all the bases and added the vocals of Ed Motta. In the United States we recorded with the group Take 6, Amanda Brecker and Mark Kibble. Then we went to London to record the strings. The string arrangements were written by Rob Mathes. It is the third album he participates as orchestral arranger and we recorded the strings in London, in the historic Abbey Road Studios.

In early May, you are playing along with Ed Motta at the Barbican, what have you got planned for the show?

Each of us will do our own show, and we are working on a joint participation. Ed sang my song called “Vida”, so we think we are going to sing that together.



When: 4 May

Where: Barbican Hall

Tickets: £20–35

Info: www.barbican.org.uk