Jazz singer Eliane Elias talks, plus complete Freihofer’s Jazz Fest lineup at SPAC

Eliane Elias, a musician in Brazil, has had a career some might call “blessed,” though it was forged with hard work and dedication that went along with immense talent. The pianist/composer/singer is a star of jazz and Latin music and this spring picked up her second Grammy for her “Mirror, Mirror” recording (Candid Records).

As pandemic restrictions lessen, Elias is happy to be back on the road performing. (She has toured in 71 countries over the years.) Her schedule on Sunday brings her to Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival at Saratoga Performing Arts Center where she is among the headliners.

But there is some bittersweetness about the last couple of years, and not all from COVID.

“Mirror, Mirror” is a duet album she did with two legendary pianists, Chick Corea and Chucho Valdes, the latter a Cuban master. In 2021, when Elias was mixing the album in the studio, Corea died of cancer.

“He seemed so well, some months before,” she said recently from her Long Island home. “But I feel privileged, honored. It was his last studio recording. And we had a beautiful time. He was so spontaneous. It was really magical. So I’m very happy that we have that.”

With Valdes, it brought to fruition a long-brewing idea.


In 2000, Elias saw him playing in Spain. “He was playing duets with his father, Bebel Valdes. They placed me on stage facing the audience, like a special guest. I had already said, ‘Chucho, let’s play some duets.’ We always wanted to. So (the recording) happened at a wonderful time.”

During the pandemic, Elias continued to write music, play piano and work on putting the new recording together. Then she suffered a bad fall. Her music stopped. So did her activities. It still has an effect.

“It was June 1 last year, and I spent five months, almost six months lying down with my right leg above my heart. I couldn’t get up for anything. And it was very, very difficult, the recovery, because I couldn’t walk. All of the bones from my foot were ruptured. In the arch, the ligament that holds all of it exploded. So there was nothing to hold the foot together and it took time to find the right surgeon.

“I’m back touring and working again, which is great. I’m not allowed to walk much. I’m not allowed to do things I love to do like, you know. I cannot do yoga. I cannot take a walk. I can only swim.” Ever upbeat and warm, she added with a warm laugh, “I cannot wear high heels!”

Still, she made changes in her life to make things better, including moving to a new home, closer to her daughter and new grandchild.

At the jazz festival, the pianist may play a number from her latest CD, but she will have a quartet including the great bassist Marc Johnson (her husband), Thiago Michelin on drums, who “brings not only the Brazilian things, but some of the Latin things, South America. He’s a wonderful, very versatile drummer. Allessandro Pellegrini is the guitarist with us. A great guitarist.

“I’ll bring Brazilian, you know. Maybe a couple of originals. Some of the Jobim things (legendary Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, whom she played with) and some of the favorites that people love to hear. I can guarantee that it’s going to be a fun time. A beautiful set of music and beautiful setting in Saratoga.”

She acknowledged how difficult the pandemic was for musicians, but she’s overjoyed to be back on stages around the country. She spoke while on a short break after 16 shows in New York City and Miami. After SPAC, she goes to Europe and Canada. She has a new album coming out in October.

“The whole business has suffered, the arts, the live performers. Because everything closed for so long. Not everyone wants to go indoors and listen to music. So it’s great that we’re going to play at Saratoga. Perfect place to go to listen to music.”

As Elias toured earlier in the year, “the feedback that you get from people — I was getting goose bumps. People were saying it’s a life altering experience that they feel,” she said. “They haven’t been out that much. I always wanted to make people happy and feel good. And have them go away from the concert with something special that they feel, that touches them. Those moments of music are the renewal. They renew the soul.”

Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival

Where: 108 Avenue of The Pines,
Saratoga Springs

When: June 25 and 26

Information: spac.org or 518-584-9330

SATURDAY

Amphitheater

Noon-1 p.m.: Hot Club of Saratoga 

1:20-2:20 p.m.: Amina Figarova Sextet plus Strings 

2:40-3:40 p.m.: Ozmosys Band 

4-5 p.m.: Galactic 

5:25-6:35 p.m.: Robert Glasper 

7:05-8:15 p.m.: Con Tumbao 

8:45-10:15 p.m.: Booker T. Presents: A Stax Revue 

Discovery Stage

11 a.m.-noon: Dan Wilson Trio 

12:20-1:20 p.m.: Connie Han 

1:40-2:40 p.m.: Craig Handy 

3-4 p.m.: Emmaline 

4:20-5:20 p.m.: Matt Wilson’s Honey & Salt 

5:40-6:50 p.m.: Red Baraat 

 

SUNDAY

Amphitheater

Noon-1p.m.: Garland Nelson’s Joyful Noise 

1:25-2:25 p.m.: Matthew Whitaker 

2:45-3:45 p.m.: Eliane Elias 

4:05-5:05 p.m.: SuperBlue: Kurt Elling featuring Charlie Hunter 

5:35-6:35 p.m.: Ledisi 

7:05-8:35 p.m.: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

 

Discovery Stage

11 a.m.-Noon: Ryan Keberle & Catharsis 

12:25-1:25 p.m.: Tiempo Libre 

1:45-2:45 p.m.: Skidmore/George Wein Celebration 

3:05-4:05 p.m.: Carolyn Wonderland 

4:30-5:40 p.m.: Cha Wa 


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