Running at a career high thanks to some very impressive albums, both as a solo artist and as part of the original Return To Forever line-up, a strong and highly unique voice, and some incredible notices and reviews for her recorded output and live shows, Flora Purim did what all good jazz artists do, and recorded a live album that justifiably stands shoulder-to-shoulder with her acclaimed studio efforts.
‘500 Miles High’ gives us the cream of Purim playing live at the 1974 Montreux Jazz Festival, and supported by a typically strong and inspired group, most of whom had played on many of her then current records. As was usual for the time, husband Airto lends his percussive and vocal skills, while Ron Carter fills in on bass in his own unique way, Pat Rebillot handles keyboards, Herbie Mann plays flute and the stellar yet underappreciated David Amaro lets his soaring guitar fly throughout.
In fact, the band members are given such generous spaces and solo opportunities to show their thing that it feels as much a group album as it does a Flora Purim one. Without her the collective showcased here would have delivered something truly spellbinding – as they frequently do – but when the iconic singer takes the mic, everything is elevated to an almost transcendant high, with Purim enhancing everything here above their studo counterparts. Her near signature theme ‘500 Miles High’ is here electric and full of high energy, while Milton Nascimento joins in for a guest spot on both guitar and vocals for joyful and uplifting highlight in the form of his own ‘Cravo E Canela’.
A near perfect recording of a great live show, the only down note is that at only just over forty minutes it’s too short and leaves you craving much more. One of Purim’s greatest records, her studio recordings are definitely to be investigated first, but this is a gorgeous and dancingly beautiful piece of the songstress in her prime and is essential for anyone who is bewitched by her other performances, either under her own name or with Chick Corea. ‘500 Miles High’ is perfectly gorgeous.