Elias started with the piano at age seven. She studied at the Free Center of Music Apprenticeship in São Paulo. She joined Brazilian singer/guitarist/songwriter Toquinho and poet/entertainer Vinicius de Moraes when she was 17 years old, with whom she made concert tours for three years, mainly through South America.On a tour in Europe in 1981, she met jazz bassist Eddie Gomez and was encouraged to travel to New York. After moving there, she was invited to join Steps Ahead, and recorded one album with the group in 1983. After leaving Steps Ahead, she worked with trumpet player Randy Brecker, whom she subsequently married. They recorded an album named Amanda
, after their daughter. In 1988 she was elected as "Best New Talent" by the JAZZIZ magazine poll of jazz critics. She divorced Randy in the early 1990s.She has recorded several notable albums, including one featuring duets with Herbie Hancock. Their 1995 disc Solos and Duets
was nominated for a Grammy in the "Jazz instrumental video" category. In 1997, American musician Bob Brookmeyer dedicated a full album to his arrangements of Eliane's compositions, backed by the Danish Jazz Orchestra and published under the name of Impulsive!
, which received another Grammy nomination as "Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album" in 2001.Elias was one of the featured artists in the Latin jazz documentary, Calle 54
, released in 2000. In 2002 she made her first appearance on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz radio program (and another in 2008). She is married to bassist Marc Johnson, with whom she has produced several albums including the ECM Records release titled Shades of Jade
which features Eliane's writing and piano-playing. This recording won the Best Foreign Release Award in Denmark in 2006 and was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the five best Fall releases in 2005.