Jazz Monthly: I’m so overjoyed to welcome for the first time to JazzMonthly.com a wonderful singer, songwriter, composer, arranger; she has such a strong yet emotional voice; she has a great repertoire of music; you perhaps remember her from great projects such as Amanda, So Far So Close, The Three Americas, Illusions, and now she has released a wonderful new record, it’s called Around the City, please welcome the fantastic Ms. Eliane Elias. Eliane, how are you?
Eliane Elias (EE): Fine, how are you?
Jazz Monthly: Great. I was listening to your new record as soon as I received it and just fell in love with it. Oh, it’s got such a great vibe and you just mixed it up so well with the piano, the B3 organ, the Fender Rhodes…I mean, you just had such a great time with this record.
EE: Oh, thank you. I’m glad you are enjoying it. I really enjoyed the whole process of making it and I’m now enjoying playing it live, so it’s fun.
Jazz Monthly: Yes, it is. So, now, just to back up just a little, I read somewhere that you were teaching music at 15 years old?
EE: That’s right. I was a child prodigy, as they would call it. I started taking piano at age seven and by age 11 I was playing all kinds of different jazz standards, Brazilian standards, and I was transcribing music from other great pianists, playing along with those records, so when I was 13 I was admitted to one of Brazil’s best School of Music we have there, and I graduated in two years. So that same year I was invited to teach in the school, so I started teaching at age 15, when I was teaching master class in jazz improvisation, piano, theory, all of those things, and then a couple years after that I started working with Toquinho and Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, one of the greats of the Bossa Nova Brazilian music. So my career started very early.
Jazz Monthly: Yes. That’s amazing because at 15 years old, most at that age don’t even want to take music lessons, and here you are at age 15 teaching music.
EE: I was teaching them too, both professionals and those, and all that. Yes, I was teaching. It’s pretty amazing when I look back and enough time has gone by and I say, wow, that’s different.
Jazz Monthly: Yes. So how did music become such a love for you?
EE: Well, I come from a very musical family. My mother’s side of the family…she played classical piano, has an incredible collection of jazz records in the house; my grandmother played acoustic guitar, was a great composer; and my great grandparents were Italian opera singers, so the music comes from the family and I fell in love with the piano. I started just taking piano like most children just start taking piano, but I fell in love with the music really deeply and I had a great facility to the music, so that, of course, was fantastic because everything I touched did well and it went well, and then I learned quickly and it was fun, it was great for me, and it was a great passion and still is.
Jazz Monthly: Yes. Now, did you have other friends that were taking music lessons as well and had such a love for music or were you just alone in this journey?
EE: At that age I was kind of alone in this thing because, I mean, I have a sister who is older than me a couple of years and she started taking piano two years before me, and she had an average talent….I mean, was not somebody who did not have talent, but was nice and average….but I started and in two months I did everything that a child normally would do in two years. So it was so fast that I would just go through the program like crazy because of my facility, so it became very apparent to teachers and to me because the way I was treated, because I would play, the teacher would cry, the teacher would call another teacher to hear, you know, it was all this talk about Eliane on TV and on the radio and on and everything, so it was kind of something that became so clear to me that I wanted to do, that I was doing well, and that I wanted to have as my profession with music.
Jazz Monthly: When did you start to professionally play music?
EE: Besides teaching, when I was 15. I started playing then with my trio, playing in different clubs in Sao Paulo, where I’m from, Brazil, big city, and also right after that, by playing in different clubs. I was invited to play with some of the great composers of Brazil like Antonio Jobim and others and his partner and lyricist, Vinicius de Moraes, so I started at age 15 basically. And I was traveling all over the world. So at age 17 I was traveling all over South America, actually. We were doing extensive touring with the group that I mentioned, with Vinicius de Moraes, Toquinho, and I already had my eyes on this country. I wanted to come here. I knew that this is what I wanted to do at that point.
Jazz Monthly: I look back to records like Amanda and you were working with Michael Brecker…
EE: With Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker, yeah.
Jazz Monthly: Yes, and that had to be such a treat to work with those two greats in the music business.
EE: Yeah, it was great. I mean, I was working….even before then I was working with Steps Ahead, Michael Brecker too, so, sure, it was fantastic. Amanda was my very first record, named after my daughter with Randy Brecker.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah. That had to be such a joy.