Airto Moreira

The B&W Music/MELT 2000 Years

One of the most high-profile percussionists of the 1970s and still among the most famous, Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira helped make percussion an essential part of modern jazz.

The Story

Making his U.S. debut on the Miles Davis classic BITCHES BREW, Airto went on to perform with many jazz greats including Stan Getz and Lee Morgan and became of founding members of the pioneering fusion groups Weather Report and Return To Forever. Airto was born in 1941 in the small village of Itaiopolis – south Brasil, and was raised in Curitiba. In 1965 he met the singer Flora Purim in Rio de Janeiro. Flora moved to the USA in 1967 and Airto followed her shortly after. When in New York Airto began playing with musicians such as Reggie Workman, JJ Johnson, Cedar Walton and bassist Walter Booker. Joe Zawinul recommended Airto to Miles Davis for a recording session in 1970 for the “Bitches Brew” album. Davis then invited Airto to join his group, which included such jazz icons as Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, Jack De Johnette, Chick Corea and later John McLaughlin and Keith Jarrett. Following his stint with Miles Davis, Airto was invited to form the original Weather Report with Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Miroslav Vitous and Alphonse Mouzon with whom he recorded “The Weather Report”. Soon after, he joined Chick Corea¹s original Return to Forever group with Flora Purim, Joe Farrell and Stanley Clarke and they recorded the albums, “Return to Forever” and “Light as a Feather”. In 1974 Airto formed “Fingers” with Flora Purim. Since then they have performed constantly all over the world and recorded their own album for major record companies in Europe and America. Airto’s work with Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, George Duke and Paul Simon, Carlos Santana, Gil Evans, Gato Barbieri, Michael Brecker, The Crusaders, Chicago, and many others including contributions to movie sound tracks such as The Exorcist, Last Tango in Paris, King of the Gypsies and Apocalypse Now, represents only a small number of the musical contributions he has made over the last three decades. His impact was so powerful that Downbeat magazine added the category of percussion to its readers and critic¹s polls, which he has won over twenty times since 1973. Airto has been advancing the cause of world and percussion music as a member of the “Planet Drum” percussion ensemble, with Mickey Hart, drummer for “The Grateful Dead”, and master conga player Giovanni Hidalgoand tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, along with Flora Purim, Babatunde Olatunji, Sikiru Adepoju and Vikku Vinayakram. Planet Drum won a Grammy Award in 1991 for World Music.

Airto also contributed to another Grammy Award winning ensemble, “Dizzy Gillespie¹s United Nations Orchestra”, which received the award for Best Live Jazz Album. Airto¹s love for the music and the people of his native country of Brazil takes him back every year to visit old friends and relatives as well as to pay respects to his spiritual guides and elders. Airto has been involved in “Spiritism” since an early age and used to go to the “sessions” with his father Jose Rosa Moreira, who was a spiritual healer all of his life. His lifelong interest in spirituality led him to record The Other Side of This, an exploration into the healing powers of music and the spiritual world. Airto also composed and performed his “Brazilian Spiritual Mass” with Gil Evans, Trilok Gurtu, Philip Catherine, and Freddie Santiago for a two hour special on German television, with the WDR Philharmonic Orchestra in Cologne, Germany.  On Airto¹s recordings for Melt2000 “Killer Bees”, features Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea, Mark Egan and Hiram Bullock; it was one of the most critically acclaimed albums on the European market and was followed by a remix project bu Tony Thorpe entitled “Revenge of the Killer Bees”.  His solo album entitled “Homeless”, on Melt 2000 was released in the year 2000. It is a high-energy album with “tribal” rhythms that is shaking the dance floors around the world. 4 more releases with Airto on MELT include his group “Fourth World” with Jose Neto and Flora Purim. Airto also performed on a number of MELT recordings such as Tuvan throat singer Boris Salchack’s album Shaman and immensely powerful singer and percussionist Olombelo Ricky from Madagascar. Productions for MELT include the South African Outernational Meltdown recordings in 1994 and the debut album of BBC Jazz award winner Byron Wallen – hailed as one of Miles successors. Airto has worked together with and had his music re-mixed by Frederic Galliano, Giles Peterson, Endemic Void, Justice, Ashley Beedle, Circadian Rhythms, Jimpster, Amon Tobin, and Max Breenen, among others on the Revenge of the Killer Bees album. Once again Airto was voted the number one percussionist of the year (2001) on the 66th Readers Annual Poll on “Down Beat Magazine”. In September of 2002, Brazil¹s President Fernando Henrique Cardoso named Airto Moreira and Flora Purim to the “Order of Rio Branco”, one of Brazil’s highest honors. Airto chose the year of 2002 to make an old dream come true. This was to teach the Brazilian people a little bit of his musical technique and also about life, spiritualism, energy and much more. Invited by the Alexandria Library in Egypt, Airto played at the re-opening event that brought people from around the world to attend it. For three years Airto was a professor at the Ethnomusicology department of UCLA, and broke new ground in musical concepts and creative energy.





Features On



Airto talks about percussion

Airto talks about producing Flora's album Speed of Light

Airto Moreira - Target Recife

Amampondo Africa 2000 live @ Bagley's

September 1996 - Live video footage of an acoustic night at Bagley's with South Africa's percussion and marimba band Amampondo, Airto Moreira, Changuito, Brice Wassy and Mabi Thobejane


Pops Mohamed Sipho Gumede & Amampondo with Airto at The Baxter in 1994


Brasilian Airto Moreira did pioneering work with a large group of local South African musicians in 1994. On this video clip Airto Moreira, Moses Molelekwa, Sipho Gumede , Jose Neto and Pops Mohamed are talking about about their feelings and experiences of the 1994 Outernational Meltdown Sessions in South Africa.
Back to top