Airto Moreira is a percussionist and singer who gained worldwide recognition after being a member of the Miles Davis group from 1969 to 1971. Flora Purim is equally praised as one of the most influential singers of her generation. Their collaborations include an impressive list of jazz and rock stars such as Chick Corea, Michael Brecker, Jaco Pastorius and Grateful Dead, among others. Together, their discographies add up to over 40 albums, including Airto`s latest CD “Aluê” – nominated for the Latin Grammy 2018 as Best Instrumental Album.
Airto Moreira was born in Itaiópolis, Brazil, into a family of folk healers, and raised in Curitiba. Showing an extraordinary talent for music at a young age, he became a professional musician at age 13. He moved to São Paulo three years later, became a member of the samba-jazz pioneer group Sambalanço Trio, and formed the legendary Quarteto Novo with Hermeto Pascoal in 1967. Shortly after, he followed his wife Flora Purim to the United States.
It didn`t take long until Airto would begin playing regularly with jazz musicians in New York such as Walter Booker and Joe Zawinul, who in turn introduced him to Miles Davis. At this time Davis was experimenting with electronic instruments and rock and funk rhythms, a form which would soon come to be called jazz fusion.
Airto was to participate in several of the most important projects of this emerging musical form. He stayed with Davis for about two years, touring and participating in the creation of the seminal fusion recording Bitches Brew.
Shortly after leaving Davis, Airto joined Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Miroslav Vitous in their group Weather Report, playing percussion on their first album. He left Weather Report to join fellow Davis alumnus Chick Corea’s new band Return to Forever. He played drums on Return to Forever’s first two albums: Return to Forever and Light as a Feather in 1972.
In 1970 Airto starts his solo career with the album Natural Feelings. Since then, his impressive discography has grown to more than 20 albums as a lead artist, plus 5 albums with his group Fourth World and 17 albums as a collaborator for his wife Flora Purim. Some of the highlights include Free (with Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett), Fingers, I`m Fine How Are You (with Jaco Pastorius), Missa Spiritual (with Gil Evans and the WDR Band), and the recently released Aluê – Airto`s first album ever recorded in his native country Brazil, with his daughter Diana Purim and a cast of some of the most sought-after Brazilian jazz musicians.
As a sideman, Airto has worked with many of the greatest names in jazz such as Cannonball Adderley, Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Gil Evans, Stanley Clarke, George Benson, Quincy Jones, Stan Getz, Paul Desmond, Joe Farrell, Jaco Pastorius, Dave Holland, Jack De Johnette, John McLaughlin, Keith Jarrett, Al Di Meola, George Duke, Reggie Workman, JJ Johnson, and Cedar Walton, to name a few. He has also performed with many Latin and rock bands, with symphony orchestras, and as a solo percussionist.
Airto`s contribution as a percussionist to the jazz world was so powerful that Downbeat magazine felt the need to create the category of Percussion to its readers and critic’s polls, which he won over twenty times since 1973. He was also voted number one percussionist by Jazz Times, Modern Drummer, Drum Magazine, Jazzizz Magazine, Jazz Central Station’s Global Jazz Poll on the Internet, as well as in many European, Latin American and Asian publications.
With Mickey Hart (drummer for The Grateful Dead), master conga player Giovanni Hidalgo and tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, Airto was a member of the group Planet Drum, who won a Grammy Award in 1991 for World Music. Airto also contributed to another Grammy Award winning ensemble, “Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations
Orchestra”, which received the award for Best Live Jazz Album.
Flora Purim’s music has interwoven the life fabric of anyone with a passing interest in Latin and American jazz music for the last 45 years.
Her once-in-a-generation six-octave voice has earned her two Grammy nominations for Best Female Jazz Performance and Downbeat magazines Best Female Singer accolade on four occasions. Her musical partners have included Gil Evans, Stan Getz, Chick Corea, Dizzy Gillespie and Airto Moreira, with whom she has collaborated on over 30 albums since moving with him from her native Rio to New York in 1967.
Her musical genius was inbred thanks to a Russian émigré father who played violin and a mother who was a talented pianist in her own right. Before leaving Brazil to
escape the repressive military regime of the time, she had mastered piano and guitar and liberated an exhilarating vocal talent.
In New York, Blue Note artist Duke Pearson was the first American musician to invite Flora to sing alongside him on stage and on record. She then toured with Gil Evans about whom she says: “this guy has changed my life. He gave us a lot of support to do the craziest stuff”. Her reputation as an outstanding performer gained her work with Chick Corea and Stan Getz as part of the New Jazz movement that also contained the nurturing influence of sax man Cannonball Adderley.
Shortly after, Flora teams up with Airto, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Joe Farrell to form “Return To Forever” in late 1971. Two classic albums resulted – “Return to
Forever” and “Light as a Feather” – nodal points in the development of fusion jazz.
When Chick decided to drive further still down the electric road, Flora and Airto chose their own path. Airto by this time had already begun to create his own legend by playing with Miles Davis in 1970, before helping to found the jazz wellspring that was “Weather Report”.
Her first solo album in the US, Butterfly Dreams was released in 1973, which put her right away to the Top Five Jazz Singers on the Downbeat Magazine Fame Jazz Poll.
Flora went on to contribute to some of the greatest recording of the seventies – Carlos Santana, Hermeto Pascoal, Gil Evans, Chick Corea and Mickey Hart all benefiting from her vocal and arranging skills. In the mid-Eighties, Flora and Airto resumed their musical partnership to record two albums for Concord – “Humble People” and “The Magicians” for which she received Grammy nominations. In 1992 she went one better by singing on two Grammy winning albums – “Planet Drum” with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart (Best World Music Album) and the Dizzy Gillespie “United Nations Orchestra” (Best Jazz Album).
The launch of the highly combustive Latin jazz band Fourth World in 1991 with Airto, new guitar hero Jose Neto and keyboards and reeds supreme Gary Meek, marked a new era in Flora’s career. The band signed to new UK-based jazz label B&W Music – and Flora consciously set out to win over the next wave of listeners.
Gigs at the Forum and collaborations with leading UK DJ/producers Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge led to Flora and Airto as guests on several influential contemporary recordings, including the James Taylor Quartets “Supernatural Feeling” and Urban Species “Listen”.
After a sabbatical period, Flora is back on stage with Airto in a new tour to revisit some of their brightest moments and continue to challenge the borders of creative music. It is the heart that responds to Airto and Flora’s extraordinary talents. Open your ears and you will fly.