The wonder is how much Eliane Elias, the Brazalian-born pianist and singer, has in common with the doomed American romantic Chet Baker. She doesn’t so much reshape the 14 Baker-related songs on I Thought About You, due May 28, 2013 from Concord Jazz, as subtly inhabit them — none more so than on the title track, this wonder of cool, yet lyrical restraint.
She’s connecting the dots here, between Baker’s intimate musical approach and the debonair lilt of bossa nova, but also between his blond-timbred voice and her own. In that way, “I Thought About You” is a remarkable achievement — an opportunity to appreciate a heretofore unnoticed influence so clearly, so particularly that you realize, all of a sudden, that it had been there all along.
Elias is joined on this date by an all-star group that includes trumpeter Randy Brecker — doing some of his most considered work — along with bassist Marc Johnson, guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves, percussionist Marivaldo Dos Santos and drummer Victor Lewis, among others. Even so, it’s difficult to get too far away from Elias’s centering voices here — both on the piano and at the mic.
She is as delicate and attenuated as Baker ever was on “I Thought About You,” even while adding just the right amount of spicy São Paulo sensuality. Elias takes his romantic expressionism to exciting new places and, along the way, sparks a new appreciation for what Baker once meant — and for what Elias is still revealing about her own craft.