Saturday, February 6, 2016

Airto Moreira - 1972 [2007] "Free"

Free is an album by Brazilian jazz drummer and percussionist Airto Moreira (who was credited simply as "Airto") featuring performances recorded in 1972 and released on the CTI label. The album reached number 30 in the Billboard Jazz albums charts.

Other than a couple of obscure efforts for Buddah in 1970, this was percussionist Airto's debut as a leader, and this is still his most famous record. A brass section arranged by Don Sebesky is heard on two tracks, and such all-stars as keyboardist Chick Corea, flutist Hubert Laws, the reeds of Joe Farrell, and even pianist Keith Jarrett and guitarist George Benson make worthwhile appearances. Flora Purim joins Airto in the one vocal piece ("Free"), and "Return to Forever" receives an early recording. The music combines together jazz, Brazilian music, and aspects of fusion and funk quite successfully.

Airto Moreira's first album for Creed Taylor's nascent jazz-fusion label CTI contributed magnificently to Taylor's modus operandi--expanding the boundaries of jazz to include elements of indigenous cultures, rock, and even classical modes. FREE is Airto in full, unencumbered flight.

His version of Chick Corea's own genre-defining classic "Return to Forever" sets the listener adrift in a choppy sea of vocal atmospheres, crests of electric piano, and Airto's simmering squall lines of percussion. The title track conjures the Brazilian rainforest with a thick underbrush of rhythm, tribal howls, and chatter. Airto and his cohorts play a wonderful array of ceremonial woodblocks, wood flutes, and other natural Brazilian noisemakers. Accompanying the percussionist are such stellar figures as Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Stanley Clarke, Ron Carter, and George Benson.

I have a lot of Airto's stuff, particularly the CTI and Arista recordings, but I never owned this one. Originally I thought "How different could this one be from the rest?", but one listening proved I was mistaken in that notion. Airto brings an all-star cast that includes his associates in the original Return to Forever (the album for ECM had just been recorded so this was captured at an amazing period for Airto's development) Chick Corea and the amazing Joe Farrell, as well as Keith Jarrett (a rare guest appearance for him) and the CTI stable of Ron "The Rock" Carter on bass, George Benson on guitar, Hubert Laws on flute and others. Airto plays ALL PERCUSSION heard, including drum kit -- something only rarely heard like on the original RTF ECM recording but something we should hear more of-- I saw Airto play standard kit in the 90s and his feel is amazing, particularly on the Brazilian-infused selections, of course (as a jazz drummer myself, I know a little bit about such things). There is lots of tasty flute on these cuts, giving an airy, light feel to the music. A great choice of material as well, better than the other CTIs of Airto because it really has an ensemble feel and the Sebesky arrangements lend a beautiful feel to the whole thing-- I hear a lot of the same approach on Jobim's masterwork from the same period "Stone Flower"... so, killer musicians + great tunes= one hell of an outing for the pioneering percussionist and grand master of all things struck with a stick. Salud Airto!  

Here is a jem of an album. Airto Moreira, or Airto, as he was known in the early days, was a fusion pioneer who participated in the most important projects, has recorded some superb albums under his own name. When you think Miles, Weather Report, Chick Corea - think Airto. This album is one of his very best, for its subtlety, depth of feeling and lush arrangements with flute, piano, guitar, electric piano, lots of percussion, voices as well. You get a superb rendition of Return To Forever, gorgeous Flora's Song, the wild, almost savage Free, the rest of the album some pretty elegant and hip Brazilian fusion with a variery of rythms. Dreamy, exotic music.

Track listing

    "Return to Forever" (Chick Corea) - 10:17
    "Flora's Song" (Flora Purim) - 8:30
    "Free" (Airto Moreira) - 11:50
    "Lucky Southern" (Keith Jarrett) - 2:36
    "Creek (Arroio)" (Victor Brazil) - 6:12
    "So Tender" (Jarrett) - 5:01
    "Jequié" (Moacir Santos) - 2:57
    "Creek" (Arroio) (Altenate Version) - 9:23 

    Recorded at Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on March 23 and April 12, 13 & 20, 1972


    Airto - percussion, vocals
    Hubert Laws - flute
    Joe Farrell - soprano saxophone, flute alto flute, bass flute, piccolo
    Chick Corea - piano, electric piano
    Keith Jarrett - piano
    Nelson Ayres - electric piano
    George Benson - guitar
    Jay Berliner - guitar
    Ron Carter - bass
    Stanley Clarke - electric bass
    Flora Purim - vocals
    Burt Collins, Mel Davis, Alan Rubin - trumpet, flugelhorn
    Wayne Andre, Garnett Brown, Joe Wallace - trombone
    Don Sebesky - arranger