By Mark Towns
Eyedentity is the musical collaboration of wife-and-husband team Diana Purim and Krishna Booker. Diana is the daughter of Brazilian Jazz legends, singer Flora Purim and percussionist/drummer Airto Moreira. Singing in both Portuguese and English, Diana sounds very much like her famous mom, especially when singing Brazilian-style wordless vocal improvisations, first popularized by Flora in the 70’s. Booker, who raps in English and is a master Brazilian percussionist, is the son of Jazz bassist Walter Booker, and is also Herbie Hancock’s godson and Wayne Shorter’s nephew.
Launched in 1997, Eyedentity’s music incorporates elements of Hip-Hop, Trip-Hop, Acid Jazz, Funk, R&B, Afro-Brazilian, and Latin Jazz, taking the listener on an eclectic journey from the Brazilian favelas to outer space, to points in between. Featuring an exciting band of phenomenal musicians, Eyedentity’s fusion of styles from around the globe takes Brazilian Jazz and the sounds of their famous progenitors to a new level.
Eyedentity’s musical journey continues with the May, 2018 release of their new album, Many Bodies, One Mind, featuring Diana and Krishna at the top of their game, and includes a star-studded cast of friends and family, with Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Airto Moreira, Justo Almario, and Carlinhos Pandeiro De Ouro making guest appearances.
I spoke recently with Diana and Krishna about their new album, their musical upbringing, Latin Jazz, and more.
Mark Towns: How did you learn to play music?
Diana: I first learned to sing watching and listening to my parents on tour and in the studio. I later learned to sing and play by ear, imitating the artists I loved and studying every nuance and inflection of every melody and accent–putting my hands on the piano and hammering out what I was hearing in my head. I had a natural propensity for harmony, so I was able to recreate the things I was hearing with relative ease, but It takes a lot more practice to coordinate the simultaneous playing and singing.
Krishna: I learned how to play music mostly by ear, although I did study music in middle and high school (trumpet, drums). I was always fortunate enough to grow up around the very best of Jazz, Brazilian, and Fusion musicians, being privy to jam sessions and shows. Also fascinated with Hip Hop culture, I began to beatbox for fun after being exposed to the likes of Doug E Fresh and the Fat Boys. Getting my hands on the latest drum machine and recording technology became an obsession. Herbie Hancock would hand down his equipment to me when he had to make room for the latest prototype of the latest “thing.” My uncle, Wayne Shorter, would also hand down and even buy brand new equipment for me which helped hone my knowledge and skills of composing and producing music immensely.
LA Jazz Scene: What musical situations have you been involved in that stand out in your mind as being the most memorable or satisfying?
Diana: Any time I am on stage with Airto and Flora is amazing. I particularly love the big festival gigs with lots of people. Last December in Brazil when we were touring for the release of Airto’s latest album, Aluê, My mother was in the audience watching and listening to me sing a McCoy Tyner song called “Search For Peace,” which she recorded on my favorite album of hers called Stories To Tell back in the mid 1970’s. There are so many other memorable musical situations… I love the projects I did with Brian “B+” Cross and Miguel Atwood Ferguson. Those were two shows from the “Timeless” music series, one with Brazilian composer and arranger, Arthur Verocai and another called “Suite For Ma Dukes,” which was a tribute to the life works of J Dilla and the original music he sampled from. It was the first time I had the privilege of singing with an orchestra. Most recently, we had the honor of being invited to share the stage a few times with some of my favorite people, Preservation Hall Jazz Band. We played with them a couple of times for Mardi Gras and also at SFJazz where Preservation Hall Foundation was being honored for their outstanding achievements in music and in the NOLA community. Its a rare and amazing thing when music and the people you are creating it with make you feel so euphoric and wonderful–where the sound you create together moves everyone within earshot to ecstatic joy.
Krishna: Performing with Sergio Mendes at the Hollywood Bowl alongside the likes of Q-Tip, John Legend, India Arie, Herb Alpert and Loni Hall was a thrill for sure (2006). Performing at the Preservation Hall with The Preservation Hall Jazz Band in New Orleans was an honor(2017). Performing with Diana in Sao Paulo, Brazil with our own band (Eyedentity) with Wah Wah Watson as our special guest was an accomplishment I was very proud of(2013). Performing with Flora Purim and Airto at Ronnie Scott’s in London will be one of my all time greatest accomplishments as well (2003-2005).
LA Jazz Scene:How do you define Latin Jazz?
Diana: To me, Latin Jazz is the “Jazzification” of “Latin” music or the “Latinification” of Jazz. In my mind, its the traditional music of Latin based, Spanish speaking countries interpreted with complex Jazz voicing and instrumentation, and can also be the other way around, where traditional Jazz is interpreted with a Latin feel, rhythm, percussion, and instrumentation. I’m not exactly sure if Brazilian music is considered to be under the “Latin Music” umbrella. For some reason, I feel like Brazil has created its own unique vibe which sets it apart from other Latin-style music. When people hear Brazilian music, they don’t think “Hey, that’s Latin music,” they just call it Brazilian music.
LA Jazz Scene: How do you balance tradition with innovation in your performances?
Diana: We like to use electronic elements both in our recorded music and our live playing. However, we prefer to create an organic musical foundation with live instruments being played by actual musicians. Then, we use the electronic elements as an accent to accompany and enhance the live band. Even the electronic elements are almost always hand triggered by a human, like playing percussion instead of being run on a sequence all the way through the song where the live musicians are being held prisoner by the backing tracks. Also, when we are composing, we like to marry traditionally-themed music with a contemporary and even slightly urban and youthful perspective, often using more complex Jazz and ethnic/folkloric style changes under modern style melodies and poetry.
Krishna: To me it’s really all about the music sounding and feeling good! If it doesn’t sound or feel good, then you haven’t properly balanced the two–it’s that simple. Once you’ve reached the phase of it sounding and feeling good, you’ve achieved the balance you’re looking for. This balance is a very individually-gauged process. I truly believe that if you base it on anything else, you’ll be torturing yourself unnecessarily, because when it comes to that, there really is no right or wrong.
LA Jazz Scene: Is there a particular artist, genre, or composer who inspires you to create new music, or to take your own playing to another level?
Diana: This is a tough question, because so many different genres and amazing artists influence and inspire me at different times in my life for different reasons. Aside from my family, there are several who deserve honorable mention, but for the sake of answering the question, I will go with Bjork. She is fearless and unique, and has utmost respect for the music, its origins and its possibilities.
Krishna: Also tough one for me–so many! But if I had to choose, I would have to say Bob Marley. I love the music he made and the reasons he made it. I’ve always loved his ability to have everybody singing along with him to very politically-driven songs, but having the listener feel likes it’s a party even though the very clear message was delivered. Great respect for that ability.
LA Jazz Scene: Do Jazz artists have a responsibility to entertain, or should the music speak for itself?
Diana: Each situation calls for a different position on this question. When it comes down to it, we are entertainers and, by nature, our craft does just that. However, the way each individual is or isn’t entertained is subjective. What turns me on may not turn you on in the same way or at all. And then there are those moments when musicians are playing together without an audience or for a very small crowd when they are playing for themselves and for each other. The music speaks for itself and that in itself is entertaining to some. Ultimately, to me, both aspects are equally important.
Krishna: There’s no choice but to seek balance on this subject. Being the best entertainer doesn’t necessarily make you the best musician, and being the best musician doesn’t necessarily make you the best entertainer. Ultimately, in order to endure, you’ll need to embrace both responsibilities. How much of each you’ll embrace will shape all of this.
LA Jazz Scene:Do you think there is an inverse relationship between musical complexity and music popularity?
Diana: In general, I do believe that there is an inverse relationship between musical complexity and music popularity, but it isn’t the rule. I think it depends on the culture of the people listening and also on other things. There are elements in more complex music that a trained listener will be able to identify and appreciate on a deeper level, such as odd time signatures, chromatic and lydian melodies, unusual harmonic voicing, but less experienced listeners can also just listen and enjoy what they are hearing without dissecting the music. Music reflects life. People listen to music for different reasons–to console themselves, to put out pent-up energy, anger and emotion, to celebrate, to motivate and inspire moods. These are basic human elements that everyone feels, and the music that accompanies and stimulates these elements will always be more popular with the masses.
LA Jazz Scene: What would it take to increase the audience for Latin Jazz?
Diana: It’s hard to know for sure, but maybe the answer lies with the new generation of players being brought up on the scene today. I sometimes feel like the “old school” mentality can be a bit exclusive, and a lot of the keepers of the knowledge and traditions are purists and somewhat closed minded in regard to the evolution of the art form. In Jazz, we have people like Kamasi Washington, Trombone Shorty, Jacob Collier, and Esperanza Spalding who are working hard to bridge the generation gap with honor and respect for the origins of the music, creating interest and inspiring people who had never been exposed to Jazz before. They make Jazz accessible and welcoming to a wider demographic of people. Maybe if Latin Jazz follows suit and reaches out more with an open mind and a greater willingness to collaborate, it can attract a new and wider audience.
Krishna: As with all music and movements, its a combination of the right promotion, outreach, willingness to adapt, and definitely LUCK!
LA Jazz Scene: What advice would you give someone just starting out in music?
Diana: Hang out with the old guys, learn how to read and write music, learn the social and political history behind the music and your favorite artists and pay specific attention to the stories they tell with their music. Find a common emotional thread between your story and theirs to help you play the music with more passion and authenticity. Learn the language, immerse yourself, find a connection, then practice and listen a lot and enjoy the process.
LA Jazz Scene: What label is your new album on?
Krishna: It’s a self-release. Our label is Eyedentitymusic.
LA Jazz Scene: Who plays on it?
Krishna: Legends like Herbie Hancock, the late George Duke, Airto Moreira, Justo Almario, Miguel Atwood Ferguson, Carlinhos Pandeiro De Ouro, Pete Lockett, and many more talented musicians and singers.
LA Jazz Scene: How does this release compare with your previous releases?
Krishna: This release is the first one to ever capture attention outside of our camp since being signed and releasing our first CD in 2000. We have an effective manager and publicist making things work a lot differently than they have before.
LA Jazz Scene: Where was it recorded:
Krishna: Most of it was recorded in our garage in Studio City. Most of the vocals were recorded at EMP Studio in Valley Village. “Tombo In 7/4” was recorded at CA Studio in Oakland. Justo Almario was recorded at Dennis Moody Studios in LA. Some bass and other things were recorded at De Santanna Studios in North Hollywood.
LA Jazz Scene: How many songs did you record before choosing the ones that ended up on the album?
Krishna: We recorded a few new songs before realizing we had some previously unreleased music that couldn’t go unheard. We revamped the style of those tracks to fit this release. We also found a gem of a track that George Duke played on, making this release even more important and special than we could’ve ever imagined.
LA Jazz Scene: How will it be distributed?
Krishna: Through Tunecore, it will be on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc. Links will be available on our website ( www.eyedentitymusic.com) once the album is released on 5/18/18. The first single is already available.
LA Jazz Scene: Are you planning to do any touring with the group who played on the album?
Krishna: We so wish we had a budget to support that. The problem is, there are so many great musicians who played that there wouldn’t be enough space on the bus. We are assembling bands in the cities we plan to tour in. For instance, June 7th in San Francisco at The SF Jazz Center during the 36th SF Jazz Festival, we have Gary Brown on bass, Celso Alberti on drums, and Frank Martin on keyboards–all residents of the Bay Area. In LA, it will be a different band, and so on.
LA Jazz Scene: Is there an album release event?
Krishna: Yes! Saturday May 19th, 2018 at The Virgil in Los Angeles at 8:00 p.m.–our official release party!
Great music is out there. Seek and ye shall find
And the Ritmo Caliente goes on….
Mark Towns is an LA Jazz Scene staff writer and columnist. You can contact him at