Flora Purim | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Flora Purim burst onto the scene in the early 70s as a member of Chick Corea's original Return to Forever. With her fleshy good looks, a husky voice buoyed by the crisp rhythms of her native Brazil (as adapted by Corea), and enunciations swimming in the slightly nasal diphthongs and lilting cadences of Brazilian-accented Portuguese, she became the adventurous voice of early fusion. Part hipster, part hippie, Purim sang with enough energy to immediately separate her from the prevailing sound of Brazilian music in the U.S., typified by bossa nova icon Astrud Gilberto; Purim seemed to summon and then redeem the age-old, overheated cliches of Brazilian music represented by Carmen Miranda. Purim's most recent albums, including the brand-new Speak No Evil (Narada), have been mostly terrific; even on the tracks I consider missteps, apparently aimed at the smooth-jazz crowd, Purim rises above the cheesy-chimey keyboard sounds and tapioca rhythms. At her best she remains that voluptuous, partying earth mother of the 70s, but now her timbre, deepened by age, brings even more emotional weight to tropicalia ballads--though it still fits the rollicking sambas that spice her repertoire. The latest disc mixes American standards, some new Brazilian tunes, and the title track, a Wayne Shorter classic from the mid-60s; her previous album comprised tunes by her countryman Milton Nascimento, and you can expect to hear some of those as well. Appearing with Purim will be much of the band found on Speak No Evil, including her husband, Airto Moreira (the drummer who, in the early 70s, helped introduce the now familiar arsenal of percussion toys to the U.S. scene), and Gary Meek, who brings a heavy swing to his tenor playing and a hearty tone to the flute. Saturday, May 3, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.

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