With a rare six-octave voice, Flora Purim has been one of the leading Brazilian jazz singers since the 1970s.
Born March 6, 1942 in Rio de Janeiro to a Russian émigré father who played the violin and a mother who was a pianist, Flora had mastered the guitar and piano by the time she left Brazil to escape the repressive military regime of the time. Upon arriving in New York in 1967, she and Airto Moreira became active in the experimental electric jazz groups that were beginning to emerge.
Her first invitation to record and perform came from Blue Note recording artist Duke Pearson. This led to a tour with legendary arranger Gil Evans. And soon after, she found herself working with Chick Corea and Stan Getz.
In late 1971 she joined Corea, Stanley Clarke and Joe Farrell to form “Return To Forever.” The two resulting albums – Return To Forever and Light As A Feather are regarded as landmark recordings of the fusion movement.
Flora released Butterfly Dreams, her first solo album, in 1973, to much critical acclaim and contributed to some of the 1970s’ greatest recordings, including those of Carlos Santana, Hermeto Pascoal and Mickey Hart.
In the mid-1980s Flora resumed her musical partnership with Airto and recorded two albums for the Concord label.
In 1990, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim formed Fourth World. The group toured consistently in the United States, Europe, South America, Russia and the Far East.
In 1992 Flora sang on Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum, which won a Grammy for “Best World Music Album,” and on the Dizzy Gillespie United Nations Orchestra’s self-titled album, which also won a Grammy for Best Jazz Album.
Fourth World, formed in 1990, featured the legendary Brazilian jazz percussionist Airto Moreira, the six-octave voice of Flora Purim, guitarist Jose Neto, keyboardist/flutist Jovino Santos Neto and Gary Brown on bass and back-up vocals.
Airto worked with Miles Davis during the Bitches Brew era. His leadership in the fusion genre (Weather Report, Return to Forever) placed Airto in the forefront of percussionists worldwide. Airto’s effect was so powerful that in 1972 Downbeat Magazine added a “percussion” category to its readers’ and critics’ polls, and Airto has been voted ‘best’ in that category almost ever since. Winner of the 1996 Drum Magazine Award for best percussion and Jazz Central Station’s 1996 Best Percussionist Award, Airto keeps on winning fans worldwide. His formidable expertise in Brazilian cultures and percussion instruments make Airto’s performances both educational and electrifying.
Flora Purim’s contributions to the jazz world have been equally as important as Airto’s, and their partnership and marriage have created a bond that is recognizable in their music. They have been making music together since their collaboration with Return To Forever in the early 197s. Flora’s extraordinary six-octave voice has set a musical role model for many singers, but few have been able to reach the simple beauty, ethereal quality and sensuality that Flora brings to her music.
Guitarist Jose Neto worked double-duty with Fourth World on his Paradis guitar, which enabled him to be the band’s guitarist and co-bassist at the same time. Jose played chords, octaves and runs that almost defy belief, resulting in a unique barrage of bass runs, cascades of semi-acoustic tones and spine-chilling lead lines. The powerful guitarist from Sao Paulo is one of the most exciting prospects to have emerged in recent years.
Keyboardist/flutist Jovino Santos Neto moved freely from Brazilian rhythms to jazz to dense orchestral textures. His goal is to use his art to abolish the barriers that still exist between the so-called “styles” of music. He blended all of his influences into an exciting amalgam.
Bassist/vocalist Gary Brown began his music career at the early age of 11, already performing in Bay Area clubs with his two brothers and father, a jazz trumpeter. Gary went on to form his own bands and develop his talent as a bassist. Powerful and emotive, he has recorded, performed and toured with an impressive list of performers and worked on numerous film soundtracks.
Fourth World toured consistently in the U.S., Europe, South America, Russia and the Far East, gaining a reputation as one of the most exciting contemporary bands in the 1990s.
Fourth World Recorded live at Ronnie Scott’s (1992)
Fourth World (1994)
Fourth World live (1995)
Encounters of the Fourth World (1995)
Last Journey (1999)
Planet Drum, the percussion album that became a world music sensation 25 years ago is available again, remastered and with new tracks. The 25th Anniversary Special Edition will be available on Friday, December 2nd, 2016 in various formats, including Vinyl LP for the first time.
On Planet Drum, American drummer Mickey Hart (The Grateful Dead) brought together percussion maestros from various parts of the world: Zakir Hussain and Vikku Vinayakram (India), Babatunde Olatunji and Sikiru Adepoju (Nigeria), Airto Moreira and Flora Purim (Brazil), and Giovanni Hidalgo (Puerto Rico).
The Remastered 25th Anniversary Edition includes 3 new tracks: Sea Of Showers, Throat Games, And The Spot. Sea Of Showers features Flora Purim And Babatunde Olatunji. Throat Games is a vocal percussion piece with Baba, Sikiru, Zakir, and Airto. The Spot starts with the sound of water drops, and then showcases Zakir and Airto.
Planet Drum: Song Descriptions by Mickey Hart
1. Udu Chant 3:40
Udu Chant represents the struggle of Life and Death, which throughout history has been portrayed in ritual using percussion. Airto plays Portuguese wooden shoes called tamanco. I play the “Beam” and a giant hoop drum from the Arctic Circle, which together form the resounding low end. Sikiru maintains a timeline bell pattern, while Zakir plays custom-made electronic triggers connected to digitally-sampled ¬Udu drums.
Island Groove is the soft side of percussion. It is a slow but simple 4/4 samba of ashiko rhythm, based on the sounds of the Yoruban consonants: go, pa, gun. When put together, they become drum talk. This song evolved as the rhymes one person played reminded another of something in their own background. We were able to collectively draw upon our various traditions, and contribute individually to the creation of this composition.
Airto started this song with a slow groove which had the power of the drum set, without the usual accompaniment of cymbals. He used a variety of unusual instruments in the composition. Among these were Mexican donkey jaws and a metal spring which resonates on the body of the instrument when hit with a stick.
Dance of the Hunter’s Fire demonstrates the basic African polyrhythm, four beats against six beats. It is an interesting comparison of two rhythmic traditions, the African and the South Indian. What you hear is Baba’s interpretation of the six-beat rhythm laid against four-beat carpet, while Vikku improvises on the Ghatam.
Sikiru Adepoju – Bell
Frank Colon – Shekere
Giovanni Hidalgo – Shekere and Congas
Airto Moreira – ¬jembe, shakers
Caryl Ohrbach – Shaker
Babatunde Olatunji – jembe
Flora Purim – Shaker
T.H. “Vikku” Vinayakram – Ghatam
5. Jewe “You Are The One” 4:06
Jewe is an example of the use of the human body as a percussion instrument. Five of us are playing in this song, slapping our chests and singing. This cupping of hands and slapping of the chest cavity created a hollow thud, and allowed us to control the vibration of our voices.
Mickey Hart –Vocals, body percussion
Bruce Langhorne – Vocals, body percussion
Babatunde Olatunji – Vocals, body percussion
Flora Purim – Vocals
Gordy Ryan – Vocals, body percussion
6. The Hunt
This song represents the primitive with a feeling of the relentless pursuit of the hunt. Sikiru’s talking drum speaks over the djembe, Jew’s harp, and drum set to form a unique rhythm.
At the dawn of religion, the Paleolithic trance dancers gathered in subterranean temple caves for ritual celebration. The natural sounds of the caves were an eerie backdrop to the dances. The echoes, the bats, the water dripping from the roof, the whacking of palm against stalagmite and the stalactite resounded thought the caves, creating unique percussive sounds. These sounds were the inspiration for Temple Caves.
The Dancing Sorcerer features Airto on berimbau, and Zakir on tabla and madal. The berimbau is one of the oldest instruments known to man. In fact, it may be the image of a musical bow in the caves at Les Trois Freres (15,000 BC) that provided the first documentation of percussion’s connection to the sacred. This picture resembles a man wearing the skin of an animal and playing some kind of instrument, possibly a sounding bow or concussion stick.
Zakir Hussain – madal, tabla
Airto Moreira – berimbau
9. Bones 4:10
This song is based on a rhythm I played on the balafon, with bones as mallets. The rest of the ensemble added their own sounds. The use of bones, especially human bones, exhibits a relationship between percussion and ritual. Hitting one bone against the other, or using bones on drums instead of sticks has an influence on the sound produced, and on the person who produces it.
Mickey Hart- Bones, balafon
Giovanni Hidalgo – batá
Zakir Hussain – Dundun, shaker and bell
Babatunde Olatunji – Vocals
Flora Purim – Vocals
10. Lost River 2:58
Lost River is a high-spirited song that demonstrates an interplay between the human voice and percussion instruments. To Zakir, this song brought to mind the singing of children in the mountains of India. The drums provide the strong rhythm which lays a foundation for Flora’s flowing melody.
Evening Samba is a mixture of Brazilian and Angolan rhythms, a perfect frame for out extended bell improvisation.
Sikiru Adepoju – Bell
Mickey Hart – Bell
Zakir Hussain – Bell
Airto Moreira – Bass drum, snare drum, tom toms, tambourine, whistles, wood blocks, metal percussion, cymbals, bells
Babatunde Olatunji – Shaker, bell
T.H. “Vikku” Vinayakram – Ghatam
12. Iyanu “Surprises” 2:02
Iyanu was recorded in 1986, after the Olatunji sessions which resulted in the recordings of the “Invocation to the Orishas” and “The Beat.” The gourds were grown in my garden, and arranged into a new instrument, a gourdophone. Airto played metal brushes against split bamboo.
Mysterious Island began with recording I made of ocean waves late one night in Kona, Hawaii. I brought back the recording and played it for the ensemble. It was the inspiration for Flora’s seagulls and for her dialogue with a circle of wind chimes which she assembled and walked among during the recording of the song. Mysterious Island mixes the natural elements of water, rain, blowing wind, and birds with the sound of metal bells and the human voice.
Mickey Hart – Grand dumbek, body percussion
Airto Moreira – Bird whistles, nose flute body percussion, tambourine
Flora Purim – Wind chimes, seagulls, vocals
Jeff Sterling – Udu Drum
The Bonus Tracks
This special, remastered 25th anniversary release includes three new tracks produced by Mickey and Zakir, with Zakir’s arrangements of material from the original 1991 recording sessions.
14. Sea Of Showers 4:52
Sea of Showers features Flora Purim and Babatunde Olatunji singing over an elegant rhythm base that includes sounds from Airto’s Aboriginal Australian bullroarer to Flora’s chimes.
15. Throat Games 2:27
Throat Games presents a pan-global scat-a-thon by Babatunde Olatunji, Sikiru Adepoju, Zakir Hussain, and Airto Moreira, using styles of vocalizations from their various musical traditions.
16. The Spot 4:34
The Spot begins with the sound of water drops, and then Zakir Hussain and Airto Moreira dance with the rhythms of the tiny waves in an homage to the water gods.
Flora Purim – Flora’s Song (Narada Jazz, 70876-19349-2-2, 2005)
Blurring the lines between jazz and world music, Flora’s Songproves yet again that Flora Purim is one of Brazil’s finest exports. Her new album includes 10 songs, which include some of her original compositions and lyrics, as well as songs by other Brazilian and American talents.
On Flora’s Song, Flora Purim’s vocals are sometimes sensual and delicate. Other times, she ventures into adventurous jazz, which is nor surprising, as she was one of the pioneers of jazz fusion in the 1970s.
The album contains a wide spectrum of styles. There is contemporary jazz (not to be confused with sappy smooth jazz, sometimes marketed as contemporary jazz) led by José Neto inspired electric guitar licks and a tribute to legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius. Also featured are intimate ballads, as well as funk and R&B highlighted by the participation of funk jazz master, keyboardist George Duke. But Flora Purim shines when she explores her Brazilian roots, singing in Portuguese and using spectacular samba and Afro-Cuban rhythms, as well as MPB (Brazilian Popular
Music) and bossa nova influences.
Brazilian percussion plays a key role, in the hands of longtime collaborator Airto Moreira. But there’s more. Steel pan maestro Andy Narell adds a new element to the mix and it works in a spectacular fashion. “The musicians were chosen with the same care as one would choose a craftsman to construct the navigation instruments of a ship,” Flora muses.
Artists & Instrumentation:
Flora Purim – vocals;
Mark Egan — bass;
Christian Jacob — piano;
Airto Moreira — drums;
Gary Meek — flute, alto flute;
George Duke — piano;
Reggie Hamilton — bass;
Sandro Feliciano — drums;
Grecco Buratto — guitar;
Dom Camardella — Hammond B3;
Marcos Silva — keyboards;
Gary Brown — bass;
José Neto — guitar;
Andy Narell — steel pans;
Harvey Wainapel — saxophone;
Jimmy Branly — drums, timbales;
Giovanni Hidalgo — congas;
Dori Caymmi — acoustic guitar;
André de Sant’anna — bass;
Krishna Booker — keyboard programming, human beat box;
Diana Booker, Corei Taylor and Rob Gardner — background vocals.