Everyone loves a great comeback, and, after a lengthy hiatus, Flora Purim obliges with If You Will, the Brazilian's first studio album since Flora's Song (Narada, 2005). Released to coincide with her 80th birthday, If You Will is a somewhat nostalgic celebration that polishes a few old gems from a recording career that beganunder military dictatorshipwith the groundbreaking Brazilian jazz album é M.P.M. (1964, RCA). The production values are excellent, as are the performances from Purim and the trusted collaborators with whom she surrounds herself.
Airto Moreira's dancing percussion opens "If You Will," an uplifting tune originally penned by George Duke, and sung here by Flora's daughter, Diana Purim. Short-and-sweet solos from keyboardist Mika Mutti and electric bassist Fábio Hess come and go, but the album as whole is less about individual virtuosity and more about the collective vibe, with half a dozen percussionists and almost twice as many backing vocalists creating rich rhythmic layers and melodic textures. Mother and daughter share vocal duties on "This Is Me," a soaring, percussion-fueled slice of Brazilian jazz with call-and-response, a fine keyboard solo from Bryan Velasco and an utterly infectious vocal motif that proves impossible to shake.
The leader takes centre stage on Chick Corea's "500 Miles High," from Return to Forever's Light As A Feather (Polydor, 1973). Purim's pipes are still in remarkably good shape, her delivery of Neville Potter's lyrics as soulful and bright as it was half a century ago. Moreira's distinctive non-syllabic vocals bookend Jose Neto's breezy "Newspaper Girl." The guitarist's tasteful solo adds colorful splashes to this tune of loping rhythmic gate and sunny melodic contours. Another long-term collaborator of the leader, notably in the group Fourth World, Neto shines on Nuno Mindelis's Pino Daniele-esque blues "Dois +Dois = Tres," though it is Flora Purim who is in the driving seat.
The elegant bossa-jazz "Dandara," named for the 17th century Afro-Brazilian warrior who fought against slavery, is a family affair. Poet Judith de Souza wrote the lyrics, which grandson Felipe Machado put to music. His grandfather, singer-songwriter Filó Machado, who has worked with Michel Legrand, Jon Hendricks and Hermeto Pascoal, arranged the track, also adding acoustic guitar and backing vocals alongside Vitor Pinheiro. Flora Purim rolls back the years to makes it her own. Claudia Villela's catchy pop-samba "Zahuroo" features the leader on wordless vocals, with sizzling percussion from Celso Alberto and Moreira.
The shuffling acoustic ballad, "Lucidez," co-written by Diana Purim, Krishna Booker and Fabio Nascimento, closes the album on an introspective note. With percussion assuming a more subtle role, Flora Purim's warm vocals are to the fore, framed by Nascimento's acoustic strumming and Todd S. Simon's painterly touches on flugelhorn.
Whether If You Will marks a late-career renaissance or a joyous swansong for Flora Purim remains to be seen. Regardless, it is a fine testament to a unique figure in contemporary Brazilian music.
If You Will; This Is Me; 500 Miles High; A Flor Da Vida; Newspaper Girl; Dandara; Zahuroo; Dois + Dois = Tres; Lucidez
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