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Bossa Nova Stories (2009)

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Toots Thielemans

Eliane Elias returns to the music of her native Brazil with this collection of bossa nova favorites, though there are a few American standards and pop songs recast as bossa novas as well. The pianist has grown in confidence as a vocalist over the course of several CDs, developing a sexy yet never overdone style that beautifully complements the music. With her husband Marc Johnson (who has also been her longtime bassist of choice), drummer Paulo Braga, either Oscar Castro-Neves or Ricardo Vogt on acoustic guitar, and a pair of guests, Elias proves herself as a talented singing pianist, effortlessly switching between English and Portuguese lyrics. Some of the tracks add string orchestrations, yet they never overwhelm the arrangements. Highlights include the easygoing rendition of "The More I See You," the relaxed and sensual treatment of "Estate (Summer)" (which adds Toots Thielemans on harmonica), "I'm Not Alone (Who Loves You?)" (which includes composer Ivan Lins in a vocal duet with Elias), and a surprisingly effective setting of Stevie Wonder's "Superwoman" (with Thielemans making another guest appearance). Eliane Elias remains one of the top bossa nova interpreters, in addition to her skills in many other jazz styles. ~ Ken Dryden