Flora Purim,
Sings Milton Nascimento
(Narada, 2002)

On this lovingly crafted recording, Flora Purim, one of Brazil's most accomplished singers, interprets and pays tribute to Milton Nascimento, one of Brazil's most beloved singer-songwriters.

In her 30-year career, Purim has established herself as one of the world's premier jazz singers. In 1972 she came to worldwide attention as the vocalist on Chick Corea's two seminal Return to Forever albums including Light as a Feather, which not only contained the classic "500 Miles High," but was also re-released in 1998 with a bonus disc containing more than an hour of previously unreleased outtakes and alternate versions. In addition, Purim has collaborated with husband Airto Moreira, Carlos Santana, Joe Sample and Mickey Hart, to name just a few, while recording over 17 albums on her own and with Airto.

Nascimento has cemented a worldwide reputation as a gifted vocalist and songwriter of Brazilian pop and jazz spanning 30-plus albums. In the liner notes, Purim traces her friendship with Nascimento back to 1964 when both were starting their musical careers. The notoriety she gained as a member of Return to Forever allowed her to arrange for Nascimento to appear as her guest at the 1974 Montreux Jazz Festival, which was preserved on Purim's album 500 Miles High, Live at Montreux. When saxophonist Wayne Shorter learned of these plans, he offered to pay half of the travel costs in return for Nascimento's appearance on his own Native Dancer album, which was recorded during this same European visit.

Flora Purim Sings Milton Nascimento features Purim singing 10 Nascimento compositions with friendly sounding arrangements by Luiz Avellar and production by Purim, Airto and Dominic Camardella. If there's one element that instantly identifies Brazilian music, it would be the rhythms, and these songs are all anchored by a first class rhythm section of bass, drums and various percussion. Piano, keyboards and guitars are layered in various combinations along with Purim's voice. It sounds great, even if you can't understand the Portugese lyrics.

While the disc is certainly enjoyable on first listen, the quality of the songwriting is not revealed until you listen some more and start to become familiar with the songs. "Encontros E Despedidas" with its sensual sounding, Gato Barbieri-style sax, almost feels like an invitation to Rio. "Nuvem Cigana" has a neat combination of deep bass and spacy electric piano, giving the song an earthy and yet ethereal tone simultaneously while rewarding the listener with a haunting melody that stays in your head long after you have finished listening. "Nos Dois (The Two of Us)" was co-written by Nascimento and arranger Avellar and offers a lovely combination of vocals and guitar with George Duke guesting on keyboards complementing Avellar's piano.

Previous knowledge of Brazilian music is not required, and you certainly don't need to be able to speak Portugese to enjoy this beautiful disc. Purim's performance here is remarkable in that her voice is both rich with all her experience and vocal ability, and yet at the same time sounds every bit as fresh, young and clear as it did on those early '70s Chick Corea records. Purim concludes her liner notes by saying "This record is not a tribute to Milton, but a declaration of unconditional love." I couldn't agree more.

- Rambles
written by William Kates
published 22 February 2003

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