Eliane Elias (with Chick Corea & Chucho Valdes): Mirror Mirror

In 2018 the Brazilian maestra joined with two other luminaries for piano duets on a predominantly Latinate repertoire

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I requested this release for review “blind” as I enjoy the Brazilian Eliane Elias’s music so much. Many a year after I had enjoyed her fine work in Steps Ahead, I was blown away by a 2012 Ystad, Sweden festival appearance where Elias fronted her Light My Fire quartet with, a.o., Marc Johnson (b). And for me, you can’t top music like the title tracks of her Kissed By Nature and Swept Away. Only when Mirror Mirror arrived did I realise I would also have the pleasure of hearing the late, great Chick Corea (1941–2021) and the very much alive Cuban, Chucho Valdes (born 1941).

I’ve never caught Valdes in concert, unfortunately. But like many, I’ve long appreciated the many contributions to Afro-Cuban and Latin music made by this multi-Grammy winner, one of the key founding members of Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna and Irakere.

The last time I heard Corea live was in New York in 2011 during the Blue Note club’s richly conceived celebration of his 70th birthday – and the night I caught was dedicated to all things Latin in Corea’s exceptional oeuvre. So listening to this beautifully programmed and superbly recorded album of improvised duets on a range of characterful compositions brought back some special memories – even as it filled me with a deep sadness to think that Corea’s multivalent creativity and life-force have been forever stilled.

In her informative sleeve-note Elias outlines the background to the “ very special” Latinate duets which make up Mirror Mirror. She describes the (separate) sessions with Corea and Valdes as “ a dream come true” and certainly, the music speaks – or rather, sings – of a most special chemistry or empathy.

Recording with Corea was “ as spontaneous as it could be”, the material ranging from Corea’s modern-day classic Armando’s Rhumba through Kenny Dorham’s Blue Bossa and Corea’s Mirror Mirror to the evergreen that is Harry Warren’s There Will Never Be Another You. Tempos are perfect and there is not a hint of any grandstanding or overcrowding, rather a delicious, completely organic – and most heartening – ego-less exchange and confluence of flowing melodic, harmonic and rhythmic figures.

The duets with Valdes are subtly different in both pianistic “weight” and overall mood, and equally striking and satisfying: witness the emotional depths of the readings of Armando Manzanero’s Esta Tarde Vi Llover and Alvaro Carrillo’s Sabor A Mi or the diversely building momentum brought to Alejandro Sanz’s Corazón Partío. The pieces were all suggested by Elias to Valdes, who confessed his surprise that she knew these songs. Elias captures the result best: “Chucho is a beautiful pianist, and together, we created a fresh blend of Cuban and Brazilian rhythms, inside the deep-rooted Latin jazz tradition that is a part of both our music”.

In sum: the music – as up and sparkling overall as it can in part be poised and reflective – simply flies by. Enjoy!

Discography
(1) Armando’s Rhumba; (2) Esta Tarde Vi Llover; (1) Blue Bossa; (2) Corazón Partío; (1) Mirror Mirror; (2) Sabor A Mi; (1) There Will Never Be Another You ( 47.51)
Elias (p) with: (1) Chick Corea (p). (2) Chucho Valdes (p). New York, 2018.
Candid Records CCD 30042