Elias, Hagans hit LU this weekend

Kat Deas

This Friday marks the start of another Jazz Celebration Weekend jammed with opportunities to hear outstanding music performed by our own students and a few highly distinguished guests: Elaine Elias and Tim Hagens. For those still debating whether to purchase tickets to either of these performances, perhaps the following introduction may help clarify any lingering indecision about the quality of these two musicians.
Just a few months ago, the Los Angeles Times billed Elias as “one of the underrated pianists of her generation.” As a pianist, singer and composer, Elaine Elias grew up as a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, following her mother’s lead into music and jazz. Throughout her childhood, she studied jazz and vocal techniques, and by age 12 was already transcribing solos of the great jazz masters. By the time she was only 15 years old, she was teaching piano and improvisation at a prestigious music school.
She continued her teenage years by receiving more honors, working with outstanding Brazilian jazz musicians and songwriters until she went to Paris, where her ability was noted by bass legend Eddie Gomez. With his help, she moved to New York to join the jazz-rock group Steps Ahead.
Nearly a decade and a half after coming to the States, one of her albums, “Solos and Duets,” released with Herbie Hancock, was nominated for a Grammy award in 1995.
Since then, she has received several Grammy nominations, and was recently featured in performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Lincoln Center in New York, and Carnegie Hall with the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra.
Tim Hagans’ jazz career began with just as much flair, when he landed a spot playing trumpet in Stan Kenton’s band in 1974 after extensive schooling at Bowling Green State University of Ohio. Two years later, he played gigs with Woody Herman before deciding to move to Sweden, where he played with Thad Jones and Ernie Wilkins while teaching trumpet, jazz, and improvisation at two significant music schools.
In 1981, Hagans returned to the United States to continue teaching and playing in various jazz ensembles, notably with his own quintet and with musicians such as Bob Belden, Bob Mintzer, Marc Copland, and Fred Hersch. Five years later, and again the following year, he won a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to compose a suite for big band.
Recently, however, Hagans set out to break the mold of accepted jazz by making a heavy metal album inspired by Jeff Beck, the James Gang, and Grand Funk Railroad. The result is a substantially original jazz innovation, without a forced attempt to blend hip-hop with jazz. Hagans further pushes the genre barriers on his more recent albums, creating a style reminiscent of Miles Davis’ eccentric work that remained commercially unavailable for years.
Although Hagans has been in jazz for 20 years already, his new innovative styles are stressing what IceBurgRadio.com sums up in a few simple words: Hagans is fast developing into a major jazz voice.
Elias’ performance will be Friday, Nov. 12, and Tim Hagans will perform as a guest soloist with the jazz ensemble on Saturday, Nov. 13. Both performances will be at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Chapel.