FLORA PURIM: ‘If You Will’ (Strut Records)

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It’s been sixteen years since Rio-born Purim – dubbed the “First Lady of Fusion” – last released a solo album but now, at 80, she returns with a sensational new nine-song collection that rolls back the years with style and reveals that her voice is still a thing of beauty and wonder.  Purim is assisted, of course, by her husband, percussionist extraordinaire Airto Moreira, as well as her daughter, Diana, who trades vocals with her mom on the opening title cut, which, interestingly, is a remake of a song that Purim first recorded in 2000 as a guest on keyboard maestro George Duke’s album ‘Cool.’  Duke’s original version was more synthetic, defined by many intertwined electronic elements, but the remake possesses much more of an organic vibe thanks to the polyrhythmic acoustic percussion patterns that drive the tune. With its emotionally uplifting wordless chorus, it’s a great opener and sets the tone for an album that will greatly please Purim’s long-time fans. 

But ‘If You Will’ isn’t the only tune from her back catalogue that Purim revisits.  She includes a superb rendition of her signature tune, the anthemic ‘500 Miles High,’ which she first recorded in 1972 with Chick Corea’s Return To Forever and quickly adopted as her own.  Her new interpretation shows that Purim can still hit the song’s high notes with effortless aplomb; and it’s also a vehicle for her bassist Andre de Santanna to demonstrate his skillful, nimble-fingered fretwork.   

Other highlights include ‘This Is Me,’ which gives a fresh coat of paint to Airto’s ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Myself Again,’ which it is based on, and the excellent ‘A Flor Di Vida,’ an exciting fusion piece that recalls Purim’s glory years at Milestone Records in the 1970s.  Of the other new tracks, ‘Newspaper Girl’ impresses with its blend of incantatory vocals, snaking percussion, and Grecco Buratta’s acoustic guitar fretwork, as does the bossa nova-tinged ‘Dandara,’ while ‘Dois + Dois =Tres,’ is a slow late-night blues that shows Purim in a different light. All in all, a spectacular return from one of the most original and distinctive voices in jazz. (Out now via LP, CD, and digital download formats). 

(CW) 4/5