How strange to listen to Moreira freestylin’ on a hip-hop beat, while being accompanied by his daughter Diana (whose tantalizing voice was revealed to the world with the album ‘Speed of Light’ back in 1995.)
While looking at times too much of a commercial exploit, the gig is great. It feels good to have Moreira back at Ronnie Scott’s, promoting his latest fatigue "Life After That" (Narada Records - Virgin / EMI); it feels great to be able to single-out the man and his overflowing energy no matter what he is confronted with Brazilian improvisations, fusion/funk quotations or even modern beats.
Moreira really is one of the greatest musicians from the forge of the 70’s. His amazing spirituality and exuberant percussive style do sum up a life of contribution to Brazilian music that has deeply reshaped jazz, and is now perhaps ready to threaten the trendy domains of the turntablists.
But for those who have been loyal to Moreira over the years, his performance will this time look very different. Both Moreira and Purim are not as central on stage as they used to be. Krishna Booker is called in to take over the percussions, leaving Moreira almost confined to the ‘conducting podium’ during the performance. Moreira does not emerge from behind his percussion set anymore: now his most original contribution to the act mainly relies on his captivating solos. Purim’s spellbinding voice and unmistakable class is twined with that of Diana's. The band line-up has changed dramatically too: notably Fourth World’s guitar player Jose Neto is replaced by Fabio Soares. Even so, the act is as engaging as usual: samba being disguised within funk/fusion frames; thick and muscular funk driven by the likes of Gary Brown (as in ‘Open Your Eyes You Can Fly’); hip-hop improvisations and varied use of atmospheric sampling; Diana Moreira Booker’s intense tribute to Nina Simone.
But the last word rests with Airto. His solos take off and kidnap you to worlds of incomparable spirituality: to a Brazil that probably exists as such only in Moreira’s music, as in Jorge Amado’s books, or simply in the eyes and minds of those from the audience who are not afraid to fly. A performance not to be missed.