Elias’ second release on Bluebird Jazz is supported by a full orchestra, with arrangements by conductor Rob Mathes.
From the alluring opening track, a tender rendition of the Tony Hatch composition Call Me, to the hushed final number, a melancholic muse on Burt Bacharach’s A House Is Not a Home, Dreamer captures Elias in a lush musical setting that is elegant, sophisticated and romantic.
While her past recordings have showcased her brilliant pianistic abilities, on Dreamer, she focuses on her prowess as a singer.
"I wanted to get inside the lyrics and tell the story of the songs with words," she says in a press release. "Throughout my career, I’ve used the piano to speak for me. It has been my primary emotional voice."
In recent years, Elias notes that audiences have also responded strongly to the vocal numbers she performs in concert.
"I feel there is a vulnerability that is shared between an artist and the audience when delivering a lyric honestly and purely from the heart."
Elias chose her repertoire carefully. Having lived half her life in Brazil and half in the United States, she chose songs written by both American and Brazilian composers.
"I looked for American songs that would sound and feel good in a bossa nova setting and Brazilian songs that already had been given English lyrics - and great lyrics," she says. "All the songs, without exception, spoke to me on several levels, through their words, melodies and harmonies."
The album opens with a gorgeous rendition of Call Me, originally written for British pop singer Petula Clark and made into a modest pop hit in the1960s by Chris Montez. It features Michael Brecker with a smoky tenor sax solo. That is followed by a classy offering of Baubles, Bangles and Beads, a swinging big band tune that Elias first heard during her days in Brazil, when she played in a big band that performed American jazz standards. Despite featuring her voice more on the album, Elias playfully admits she couldn’t hold back a sizzling piano solo on Johnny Mercer’s Tangerine, which features drummer Paulo Braga playing the moringa, a Brazilian percussion instrument.
Elias contributes two originals to Dreamer: Moving Me On (co-written with bassist Marc Johnson) and the quiet love-and-longing song, Time Alone.
On the Brazilian side of things, Elias honors one of her native land’s foremost composers, Antonio Carlos Jobim, American saxophonist Stan Getz and Brazilian composers Dorival Caymmi and Paulo and Marcos Valle.
First, there’s the lovely treatment of the well-known bossa nova So Nice (Samba de Verao (by the Valles) and the upbeat jaunt through Caymmi’s Doralice. On the latter, Elias pays tribute to Getz, who recorded the song on the Getz/Gilberto album with Joao Gilberto singing.
The piano lines Elias plays on the first chorus are exceptional transcriptions of Getz’s saxophone solo.
One of the foremost interpreters of Jobim’s music, Elias also covers two of his gems: Photograph (Fotografia) and Dreamer (Vivo Sonhando) , with English translations by Ray Gilbert and Gene Lees, respectively.
"I never tire of Jobim’s compositions," Elias says. "He was one of the greatest composers ever and the father of Brazilian standards. He wrote very melodic, romantic songs and painted beautiful pictures with music."
The album concludes with the sole instrumental, Bacharach’s A House Is Not a Home.
"I had been playing it in duo with Marc, and we thought it would be a nice contrast to the rest of the album," Elias says. "It is a beautiful way to end the record, and a reminder that the piano is still an emotional voice for me.
"It can sing, too."
Whether pianist or vocalist, Eliane Elias sings beautifully throughout Dreamer, as she’s done so often in the past. While all the songs on Dreamer are beautifully done, Call Me, Baubles, Bangles and Beads, So Nice, Doralice and the two originals deserve extra attention.
Elias and her supporting cast are in top form.