Airto Moreira Biography

5 August 1941, Itaiópolis, Brazil. Moreira moved to Rio de Janeiro when he was 16 years old. In the 60s he played in a quartet with the pianist/flautist Hermeto Pascoal, travelling the length and breadth of Brazil collecting and using over 120 percussion instruments. He moved to Los Angeles in 1968 and then to New York in 1970. Airto, as he is commonly referred to, was a musician who managed to be in the right place at the right time; jazz was being opened up to the kind of extra rhythmic subtlety a second percussionist could offer. Moreira describes how ‘you look and listen for your own place in the music - your own space - and then you start to make sounds... music is like a picture; it’s not just sound’.

Moreira worked with Miles Davis in 1970 as he sought to establish the changes announced in Bitches Brew. He played percussion on the Weather Report debut album in 1971 and then worked with Chick Corea’s Return To Forever. Since then he has worked with musicians ranging from tenor saxophonists Stan Getz and Gato Barbieri to the Grateful Dead’s drummer Mickey Hart with whom he recorded the percussion soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola’s movie Apocalypse Now. He worked most regularly with his wife Flora Purim. In the mid-80s he played with the Al Di Meola Project, with which he toured Europe. Moreira also began to lean towards world music, including his own native Brazilian traditions, recording with Hart, Zakir Hussain, Babatunde Olatunji and T.H. Vinyakram as Planet Drum (whose 1991 debut album won a Grammy Award) and as part of the highly regarded Fourth World. He also released his successful solo album, The Other Side Of This, for Rykodisc Records, which again paired him with Hussain. The central appeal of this was the unfettered approach to improvising songs, all of which were unrehearsed. The sparkling, spontaneous performances of songs such as ‘Dom Um’ provided a further career highlight.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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