Exclusive Interview - Eliane Elias

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


Multi-Grammy winning piano virtuoso Eliane Elias provides a fresh take on a Broadway classic with Music from Man of La Mancha. The original Broadway production of Man of La Mancha ran for over 2,300 performances, winning five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Elias recorded this new collection of songs at the request of Mitch Leigh, the late composer of the music for the original Broadway production. Leigh specifically looked to Elias to interpret, arrange, and record his songs as an instrumental Latin Jazz album in her own inimitable manner. Recorded with two different trios, this nine-track collection is a unique all-instrumental reinterpretation of songs from the legendary musical.


ArkivJazz: Eliane, this new record is a tremendous recording. What brought this on?

Eliane Elias: Thank you. Back in 1995 or 1996, I got a call from an assistant of Mitch Leigh. I knew that Leigh was the composer who wrote the music from Man of La Mancha and other shows, and he wanted to meet. We made an appointment, and he said that he liked all of the Blue Note recordings that he heard, and he liked my work with other composers. He asked if I would be interested in recording songs from Man of La Mancha, gave me a CD of the Broadway production, and asked me to listen to the music and put my own imprint into it. So, I listened to the CD which had 14 or 15 tracks, picked out nine tunes and began preparing arrangements. I wouldn’t have taken this project if I thought that I couldn’t do something special with the music.

I called him back and he came over again. I first played “To Each His Dulcinea,” with a new intro that I created. I created the intro, the interludes, and other changes that worked with the harmonies of the tunes. So, he was thrilled and wanted to move on with the recording, giving me complete artistic freedom and the production that I like to use. As with many of my recordings, I had more than one rhythm section recording with me, because of the different arrangements for each song. The musicians that I chose for some of the cuts were Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette. For some of the other cuts, I used the working trio with Marc Johnson, and Satoshi Takeishi, where I could explore some other rhythmic things that would be different than the kind of interplay I have with Eddie and Jack.

AJ: So all of this was going on when Mitch Leigh was still alive?

EE: Oh yes, he was a big part of this and really wanted this recording to happen. He was there for every note that was recorded, and to me, it’s very rewarding when the composer loves it. When he heard his tunes played, he just couldn’t get over it and really loved the arrangements. But, we were stuck with this record, because it never came out.



AJ: Oh, so this was recorded years ago?

EE: Yes, Mitch was still alive then. It was all beautifully done, but because of circumstances, it wasn’t released at the time. Mitch was so proud of it though. I was able to speak with his children, who said that Mitch played the recording over and over to guests who visited their home.

AJ: I can see why he did because the songs are fantastic. Man of La Mancha is a musical best-known by one of its tunes, but all of these songs are really strong.

EE: Yes, I feel that too. I believe that there are no other recordings of these songs as instrumentals. I’m very excited…the feedback I’ve been receiving is very strong.

AJ: When I heard the record, I thought that the songs are so strong, I’ve been listening to it over and over. Especially with the two bands, it explains a little bit of the difference in sound…

EE: Yes, and the choice of the type of arranging too. I used different ways to enhance the tunes with the harmonies. Sometimes I created pedal points with moving the harmonies on top, or harmonizing every note of a melody, or also using modulations to build emotion or bring to a climax. But, rhythmically speaking, there are tunes where I used different Brazilian rhythms. “A Little Gossip” is a type of rhythm we use in the northeast of Brazil, more of a Carnival rhythm. Then, with “The Impossible Dream,” my idea was to do it as a samba. It’s a samba with modulations going higher and higher, then relaxing in the end. Mitch loved that arrangement.

AJ: He should, because a tenor or baritone usually sings that tune very slowly and dramatically, but your version really moves with lots of propulsion.


Music from Man of La Mancha is available now via Concord Jazz


EE: For me, I’m glad this is coming out because of the timing. I released many instrumental records at Blue Note, but then I slowly started adding more and more vocals with each release, and these days I release a lot of vocal albums. So, to release something that’s instrumental, it’s really nice for me and keeps it fresh.

AJ: You’ve been getting an enormous amount of great press and radio support for this release, and you have a wonderful tour lined up too.

EE: Yes, we have a great tour lined up, and we’re hitting a lot of good markets.

AJ: So you’ll be performing a lot of these songs on your upcoming tour?

EE: Oh yes, of course, when I tour there are things the fans want to hear, so I will always include some of their favorites, but of course I’ll be playing material for this too. 



Eliane Elias U.S. Tour Dates

Apr 7 Smith Center for the Arts Geneva, NY
Apr 10-14 Birdland New York, NY
Apr 26-29 Dimitriou's Jazz Alley Seattle, WA
May 1 Dakota Jazz Club Minneapolis, MN
May 2 City Winery Chicago, IL
May 4 Manchester Craftsmen's Guild Pittsburgh, PA
May 5 The Kennedy Center Washington, DC
May 11-12 Scullers Jazz Club Boston, MA
Aug 18 Margaret Lesher Theatre Walnut Creek, CA