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Friday, 25 January, 2002, 15:51 GMT
A shaft of Brazilian sunshine
Airto Moreira
Airto's group has become a January fixture in London
By BBC News Online's Alex Webb

Most jazz fans have heard Airto Moreira, even if they do not recognise the name.

The Brazilian percussionist has played with great jazz names like Miles Davis, Weather Report, Stan Getz, Chick Corea and many others.

But for a long time Airto has also led his own group, who over the last few years have carved a niche in London, visiting every January to bring a little Brazilian sunshine to Ronnie Scott's club.

Flora Purim
Purim: Great poise and timing
Airto's brand of jazz is something both sophisticated and simple, abstract and earthy.

His drum kit - festooned with shells, chimes, blocks and all kinds of cymbals - looks more like a Rio market stall than a musical instrument.

But, unconventional though he is, Airto is no musical stunt man. He is all music, all rhythm, and as capable of holding an audience spellbound on his own as he is when driving his quintet from behind the kit.

He opened the first night of his three-week club residency by simply singing against the rainforest sounds of his own percussion, clattering sea shells on to his snare drum until Gary Meek's sax drifted in for a dreamy solo.

Then he snapped the group into a fast samba, playing the kit while using a shaker in one hand, as his wife, singer Flora Purim, took the stage.


Purim's voice is not the huge, breathy instrument it was when she sang with Return To Forever in the 1970s, but she still has great poise and timing.

She told the audience that she had been rediscovering the music of her native Brazil again and launched into a bossa nova, Viver De Amor, creating interesting effects with an echo effect on the microphone.

The group moved with ease between the poles of contemporary jazz and Brazilian music - often during the same song.

Airto Moreira and Flora Purim
The husand and wife team have worked together for more than 30 years
Gary Brown's bass was deep and funky, locked tight with Airto's kit, while Marcos Silva proved a fleet and sensitive piano accompanist.

One of the songs was about saudade, the Brazilian word for a kind of longing which, according to the song, has no direct translation in English.

But English fans of Brazilian music know saudade when they hear it, and it was present at Ronnie Scott's - a satisfying note of reflection and melancholy beneath the obvious joy of the music.

It was there, too, during Airto's party piece - a solo with pandeiro, the large Brazilian tambourine.

Singing, playing and blowing a whistle, manipulating the acoustic effects of the microphone, Airto managed to sound like a one-man Afro-Brazilian mass, then a Rio samba school.

And for a few delicious minutes, it was almost impossible to believe that a cold, wet English night was waiting outside for the patrons when the music was over.

Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, Ronnie Scott's club Mon-Sat until 9 February

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