Airto / Airto Moreira

Samba de Flora

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An effusively performed minor classic of Brazilian jazz fusion, percussionist Airto Moreira's 1988 album Samba de Flora found him diving into an organic mix of originals and covers alongside equally gifted collaborators including his wife vocalist Flora Purim, Argentine pianist Jorge Dalto, bassist Alphonso Johnson, percussionist Don Alias, Cuban conga player Cachete, and others. The album was originally released on the cult independent Montuno Records label, based out of the Record Mart record store located in the Times Square subway station. Founded by Latin music impresario Al Santiago in 1975, Montuno issued album after album documenting the exuberant music and musicians whom Latin fans -- and specifically Latin dance fans -- were digging in NYC in the '70s and '80s. The centerpiece of the album is the propulsive minor-key title track, which features Moreira on both percussion and vocals, leading his band through an absolutely infectious dancefloor banger. Following the songs' minute-long percussion intro, Moreira and his band erupt into a dynamic call-and-response verse that conjures images of stylish dancers coupled in a sweaty samba frenzy. Equally captivating is the group's buoyant reading of Hugo Fattoruso and Ruben Rada's "Dedos" featuring Purim's earthy, smiling vocals. Elsewhere, they offer a similarly sparkling rendition of George Duke's "Yanah Amina" and plunge into the electric guitar-tinged Tropicalia of "Latin Woman." Moreira also reveals a gift for elegiac balladry, showcasing his burnished baritone vocals on the yearning, spare piano numbers "Mulambo" and "La Puerta." As with many of the LPs released by Montuno, Samba de Flora is a warmly produced album with a vibrant live aesthetic that steams with the energy and passion of a concert given in the heat of a New York City summer.

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