by Ron Netsky
Eliane Elias wowed the crowd at Kilbourn Hall Wednesday night in a show filled with sambas and bossa novas from her native Brazil. For decades Elias has been known as a formidable pianist; in recent years her singing has become an equally important part of her music. She sang songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim and others in the original Portuguese. Only on "Call Me" and on the bridge in "The Girl From Ipanema" did she sing in English.
But there was no language barrier. She knew all of the songwriters personally and was very funny in her descriptions of their lyrics, especially when they related to sexy women. And speaking of sexy women, at the age of 52 Elias is blonde and beautiful. She was wearing a low-cut black dress and, at one point got up to dance while singing a song about a blonde dancing. Who else can sing a sexy song, dance a sexy dance, and then sit down at the piano and play a solo to rival McCoy Tyner?
Her band was excellent throughout, but only on the last tune did her bassist (and husband), Marc Johnson, and drummer, Rafael Barata, unleash fantastic solos. After a standing ovation, the group came back and played two more songs.
Earlier in the evening I caught the adventurous quintet Kneebody at Montage. The group, composed mostly (four out of five) of Eastman School of Music graduates, opened with a large, driving beat, drums and bass in perfect sync. With the keyboard swirling around, the front-line trumpet and sax players took off in another direction, countering the beat and making for a manic dance.
The piece eventually slowed down to an ethereal horn harmony, but that didn't last long. The saxophonist put down his instrument and went over to assist the powerhouse drummer (as if he needed help) and things became downright tribal, complete with the elephant that the trumpet had morphed into. And that was just the first tune.
I also saw saxophonist Osian Roberts, trumpeter Steve Fishwick, and their band at Christ Church. With his English accent and Beatle hairstyle, Roberts looked like he could have been part of the British invasion of the mid-1960's. But when he picked up his sax it was clear that he was rooted in older music, the hard bop of the late 1950's/early 1960's.
Roberts and Fishwick are both outstanding straight-ahead players, but that doesn't mean straight and narrow. Every solo started close to the melody, but as they progressed through the choruses both musicians would venture further and further out. There were some excellent original tunes, notably "New Bossa" and "Uptown Shuffle" by Fishwick, but the highlight for me was their rendition of Grant Green's "Jean de Fleur." The group lurched out of the gate and, driven by Rochester drummer Mike Melito, never lost the momentum.
Thursday night I will see the inside of Kodak Hall for the first time this festival when I check out Daryl Hall and Keb Mo in a special traveling edition of "Live From Daryl's House." I'll also check in at the churches to catch two guitarists: Mark McKnight at Christ Church and Bjorn Thoroddsen the Lutheran Church.
What shows did you enjoy the most on Wednesday night? Where will you be heading on Thursday?