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September 2002

Flora Purim
Flora Purim Sings Milton Nascimento
Narada Media

As a self-confessed Brazilian-jazz junkie, I'll take my fixes any way I can. From the shimmering majesty of Elis Regina to the watered-down, Rio-on-the-rocks purr of Julie London's Latin in a Satin Mood, anything that lands me in the general vicinity of Copacabana beach is music to my ears. Even as devoutly indiscriminate a listener as myself, however, can recognize the differences between paste and pearls. And when Brazil's finest living vocalist, Flora Purim, decides to devote an entire album to Brazil's foremost composer, Milton Nascimento, we're talking cultured pearls of the highest purity.

Though Purim and Nascimento are giants whose respective talents tower higher than Corcovado, and though Purim has spent more than half of her 60 years living in the U.S., neither has ever approached anything close to mainstream popularity in North America. Perhaps it's because Purim and Nascimento, devoted friends since their first meeting in the earlier '60s, are too challenging, too boldly outre for listeners who prefer the easier lilt of Jobim as distilled by Sinatra, Getz or Lee. Or perhaps it's simply a question of accessibility, since neither (particularly Nascimento) has produced an enormous amount of material in English. Ah, but to steal a line from Lena Horne, you don't have to know the language to appreciate the raw passion and uncompromising genius that permeate all 10 of this landmark album's tracks. In time Sings Milton Nascimento will be counted among the great songbooks, especially by those who like their Brazilian jazz straight, no chaser.

Originally published in September 2002
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