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Flora Purim and Airto Moreira (Ronnie Scott’s, 27-29 June)

Brazilian singer Flora Purim and percussionist Airto Moreira used to be habitués at Ronnie Scott’s; their group Fourth World recorded a live album there for the club’s in-house label in 1992. They are emabarking on a European will be returning to the club at the end of June for a three-night, six-show residency. Saxophonist Aaron Liddard is excited to re-connect with their music, their particular energy, and their humility. He writes:

Airto Moreira and Flora Purim
(Photo: Viktor Kobayashi)

A friend once introduced me to an ageing couple at a hotel in Morettes, southern Brazil. The friendly couple had not one ounce of ‘big time’ about them, and when I exclaimed how excited I was to meet them, the gentleman said: “Why? There’s no difference between us, I’m just older!” Obviously there’s a big difference. I’m not married to Flora Purim for a start.

As is often the way with the very best musicians, their humility is discombobulating. I’ve come to the conclusion that humility is essential to learning and that learning is essential to becoming a great musician. All the greatest I’ve met have been so devoid of ego that I’ve had to double check whether they were just some dude that looks a bit similar.

Airto Moreira and Flora Purim are jazz royalty. Giants of Brazilian music who have spent their lives crossing over to American music and back again. When I imagine lyric-less vocals, I’m hearing Flora Purim. Her ethereal delicacy and understated subtlety brings superb presence to any melody. Airto on the other hand is a furnace of energy that has always burned as bright as any of the jazz originators he’s worked with.

The guys that first made bebop are mostly jamming elsewhere now: Bird, Dizzy, Monk, Coltrane, Miles… a few remain like Barrie Harris the sideman and travelling jazz educator. The generation of musicians who were very young when first working with those those originators are still with us and I love to hear them playing and talking about life. Like our own Duncan Lamont or Barry Forgie, Airto and Flora were living their peak during the days that musicians could earn good money, and were celebrated like footballers are celebrated now.

500 Miles High was Latin jazz fusion when the subgenre was excitingly new & evolving in 1973. Flora’s and Airto’s playing in Return to Forever’s Light as a Feather is a real highlight of that band for me, and I hear Flora’s haunting voice whenever I imagine or play the standard.

Live music can affirm the wonderfulness of life. Ageing greats bring to the stage a lifetime of affirmation and they never shirk from sharing the love. You never know when they’ll tire of touring and grow too fond of home to booked another flight. Airto and Flora are playing six shows in London, you’ll find me in the front row.

LINKS: Bookings for 27- 29 June

Aaron Liddard

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