Airto Moreira (born August 5, 1941) is a Brazilian jazz drummer and percussionist. He is married to jazz singer Flora Purim, and their daughter Diana Moreira is also a singer. He currently resides in Los Angeles.
Airto Moreira was born in Itaiópolis, Brazil, into a family of folk healers, and raised in Curitiba and São Paulo. Showing an extraordinary talent for music at a young age, he became a professional musician at age 13, noticed first as a member of the samba jazz pioneers Sambalanço Trio and for his landmark recording with Hermeto Pascoal in Quarteto Novo in 1967. Shortly after, he followed his wife Flora Purim to the United States.
After moving to the US, Moreira began playing regularly with jazz musicians in New York, including the bassist Walter Booker. Through Booker, Moreira began playing with 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. Moreira 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 (1970).
Shortly after leaving Davis, Moreira joined other Davis alumni Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Miroslav Vitous in their group Weather Report, playing percussion on their first album, Weather Report (1971). He left Weather Report (replaced by Dom Um Romão and Muruga Booker for their Sweetnighter album) 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. These albums are regarded today as classics of the fusion genre.
Moreira was a contributor to many of Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart's world music/percussion albums in Rykodisc's The World collection, including The Apocalypse Now Sessions, Dafos, Supralingua, and Planet Drum, which won a World Music Grammy in 1991. He can be heard playing congas on Eumir Deodato's 1970s space-funk hit "Also sprach Zarathustra" on the album Prelude.
Moreira has played with many of the greatest names in jazz including Cannonball Adderley, Lee Morgan, Paul Desmond, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, John McLaughlin, Keith Jarrett, Al Di Meola, Zakir Hussain, George Duke and Mickey Hart. He has also played with the Latin/fusion rock band Santana, with symphony orchestras, and as a solo percussionist. During live performances he often includes a samba solo, where he emulates the sound of an entire band using just a single pandeiro.
In addition to jazz concerts and recordings, he has composed and contributed music to film and television (including scores for Apocalypse Now and Last Tango in Paris), played at the re-opening of the Library of Alexandria, Egypt (along with fellow professor of ethnomusicology Halim El-Dabh), and taught at UCLA and the California Brazil Camp.
In 1996, Moreira and his wife Flora Purim collaborated with P.M. Dawn on the song "Non-Fiction Burning" for the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Rio, produced by the Red Hot Organization.
Moreira was voted the number one percussionist in "Down Beat Magazine's Critics Poll" for the years 1975 through 1982 and most recently in 1993.,
In September 2002, Brazil's President Fernando Henrique Cardoso added Moreira and Purim to the "Order of Rio Branco", one of Brazil's highest honors.