African Music Encyclopedia


Airto Moreira


Airto Moreira was born in 1941 in southern Brazil in the small village of Itaipolis, Santa Catarina. He was drumming before he could even walk, beating his fists on the floor, which had his mother quite concerned! His grandmother, though, recognized his special talent and encouraged him to express himself with the sounds of his childhood in the woods of Ponta Grossa and then Curitiba. By the age of seven, Airto was already appearing regularly on the radio, at thirteen he sang in the band Jazz Estrela, and by sixteen, when he moved to Sao Paulo, he was playing jazz professionaly. By 1963 he had moved to Rio and it was just a short time later that he met his future wife, singer Flora Purim.

In 1968 they moved to Los Angeles where Flora worked in a restaurant called Lost and Found and Airto did odd-jobs and played around. The couple soon moved to New York where Airto was more successful in finding gigs, his first job was in a restaurant where he worked for food! Soon he began meeting musicians like Reggie Workman, Cedar Walton, and bassist Walter Booker. It was through Booker that Airto began to meet the greats, people like Cannonball Adderley, Lee Morgan, and Joe Zawinul.

It was Zawinul who reccommended Airto to Miles Davis for a recording session in 1970. Davis soon invited Airto to join his group, which included such other jazz icons as Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Chick Corea, and later, John McLaughlin and Keith Jarrett. Airto remained with the Davis group for two years and he appears on such Davis releases as Live At The Fillmore and Live/Evil.

Airto was invited to participate in the first Weather Report album with Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul. Soon after he joined Chick Corea's original Return To Forever group, which also featured Flora Purim, Joe Farrell, and Stanley Clarke. Together they recorded the albums Return To Forever and Light As A Feather. I had the good fortune to see both the original Weather Report and Return To Forever groups and Airto was a standout, even with those other jazz greats on the stage.

What's interesting about Airto's percussion is it's lack of boundaries. He believes in something he calls Creative Percussion which means exactly what it sounds like. In concert Airto uses a large table on rolling legs that he designed. It holds a variety of strange implements, only some of which are actually percussion instruments. I've seen him use such 'everyday' items like a metal rack from a refrigerator, rubber hoses, wooden shoes, springs attached to tin cans, shakers made from beer cans (with shot pellets inside), etc. Wherever he is he's always looking for anything that can make a unique sound. It's an attitude like this that will always keep Airto creative and young at heart.

I highly reccommend a book by Airto, edited by Rick Mattingly: Airto: The Spirit of Percussion.
It's part of the Master Class series by 21 Century Music Productions, PO Box 1816, Wayne, NJ 07470.

An interesting page about Flora and Airto is maintained by E.Konishi, a big fan living in Japan, as he says...

"This page is dedicated to the vibrant world of the greatest Brazilian couple. Find their brilliant career and feel their energy in this site."

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