fri 19/04/2024

Albums of the Year 2021: Eliane Elias - Mirror Mirror | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2021: Eliane Elias - Mirror Mirror

Albums of the Year 2021: Eliane Elias - Mirror Mirror

A dazzling album of piano duets offers risk-taking and hyper-romantic outpourings

Heart-melting voicings and acute listening

After watching so many gigs through a computer screen, it was a joy to hear live music again in familiar haunts – from Ronnie Scott’s and the Southbank to Grand Junction, Paddington – in 2021. It made you appreciate anew not only the high-wire artistry and unfolding musical conversations happening on stage, but also the collective thrill of that shared "in the room" experience.

No album more aptly epitomised that sense of musical communication, risk-taking and acute listening than pianist Eliane Elias’s Mirror Mirror, which featured Elias in alternating duets with Chucho Valdés and the late lamented Chick Corea. For dazzling pianism, heart-melting voicings and hyper-romantic outpourings of notes, step right this way.

Other highlights in jazz included a welcome return as leader by Gretchen Parlato, whose Flor presented a sublime synthesis of Brazilian music, originals, judiciously reworked R&B and more, with the casting of Roy Hargrove’s “Roy Allan” as a mesmerising samba a stroke of arranging genius.

Harpist Brandee Younger’s major label debut on Impulse! Records, Somewhere Different, was a work of enormous imagination, and “Beautiful Is Black”, one of two tracks featuring bass legend Ron Carter, one of the most seductive ballads you’ll hear this year.

A big band album written, arranged and produced by vocalist and composer Jazzmeia Horn, Dear Love showcased the full gamut of her compositional palette, her exceptional range and devastating falsetto, and her sense of joyous exhortation.

A follow-up to their outstanding Songbook (2017), Quiet Is the Star presented a further nine beautifully crafted songs from the dream pairing of pianist/composer Alan Broadbent and vocalist/lyricist Georgia Mancio.

Euphoric key changes, drop-dead gorgeous vocal harmonies, arrangements packed with detail: the brilliant third album from Ivor Novello-winning singer-songwriter Laura Mvula, Pink Noise, presented her singular homage to the music of the 1980s. In a strong year for K-pop, TXT’s The Chaos Chapter: Freeze ranged from the soaring title track and uber-catchy “No Rules” to the bona fide summer banger, “Magic”.

In More Tunes from The Goodman Manuscripts, the wonderful trio of Mick O’Brien (uilleann pipes, flute, whistle), Aoife Ní Bhriain (fiddle, viola, concertina) and Emer Mayock (flute, whistle, pipes) brought yet more reels, jigs, airs and polkas from this 19th century treasure trove thrillingly to life.

Finally, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir delivered a stunning recording of Alfred Schnittke’s vast, four-movement Choir Concerto – one of the masterpieces of 20th-century choral music – under the direction of Kaspars Putniņš, coupled with Schnittke’s captivating Three Sacred Hymns and Arvo Pärt’s exquisite setting of the venerably ancient Seven Magnificat Antiphons.

Two More Essential Albums of 2021
Gretchen Parlato - Flor
Schnittke; Pärt - Choir Concerto; Three Sacred Hymns; Seven Magnificat Antiphons

Musical Experiences of the Year
Cécile McLorin Salvant, Cadogan Hall, EFG London Jazz Festival
Christine Tobin, Masters of Tradition Festival, Bantry, West Cork (online)

Track of the Year
Gretchen Parlato – “Roy Allan”


Watch “Armando's Rhumba” from Mirror Mirror, performed by Eliane Elias and Chick Corea


Wonderful duet by Eliane and Chick. Beautiful to watch and listen. The whole album Mirror Mirror by Eliane Elias is magic.

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