Airto Moreira was born in 1941 in the small village of Itaiopolis - south Brazil, and was raised in Curitiba. Even before he could walk he would start shaking and banging on the floor each time the radio played a hot song. This worried his mother, but his grandmother recognized his potential and encouraged him to express himself. By the time he was six years old he had won several music contests singing and playing percussion. The city gave him his own radio program every Saturday afternoon. At thirteen he played his first paid engagement and became a professional musician. After that he worked in local bands playing percussion, drums and singing. At the age of sixteen he moved to São Paulo and soon was performing regularly in night clubs, shows and television, as well as touring with prominent artists.

In 1965 he met 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 jazz musicians. It was bassist, Walter Booker that introduced Airto to the greats - Cannonball Adderley, Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter, Lee Morgan, Paul Desmond and Joe Zawinul, to name a few. Zawinul recommended Airto to Miles Davis for the "Bitches Brew" recording session in 1970… the iconic album that changed the face of jazz. Davis then invited Airto to join his group, which included such jazz icons as Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Chick Corea and later John McLaughlin and Keith Jarrett. He remained with Miles for two years and appears on such releases as "Live/Evil", "Live at the Fillmore", "On the Corner", "The Isle of Wight" and later releases including the "Fillmore Sessions".

Following his stint with Miles, Airto was invited to form the original Weather Report, a group with Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Miroslav Vitous and Alphonse Mouzon with whom he recorded "The Weather Report". Soon after, he joined Chick Corea's original “Return to Forever” band with Flora Purim, Joe Farrell and Stanley Clarke and they recorded the albums, "Return to Forever" and "Light as a Feather", touring extensively around the world.

In 1974 Airto formed his first band in the USA called "Fingers" with Flora Purim. Since then, they have performed constantly all over the world and recorded their own albums for major record companies in Europe and America. Airto remains one of popular music's most in demand percussionists. His collection of instruments, along with his knack for playing the right sound at the right moment has made him the first choice of many producers and bandleaders. His work with Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Paul Simon, Carlos Santana, Gil Evans, Gato Barbieri, Michael Brecker, Dexter Gordon, 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 Airto has made over the last four decades.

His impact was so powerful that the leading jazz magazine “Down Beat” added the category of percussion to its reader’s and critic’s polls, which he has won over twenty times since 1973. In the past few years he was voted number one percussionist by Jazz Times, Modern Drummer, Drum Magazine, Jazziz Magazine, Jazz Central Station's Global Jazz Poll on the Internet, as well as in many European, Latin American and Asian publications.

As a member of the "Planet Drum" percussion ensemble, he has advanced the cause of world and percussion music together with Mickey Hart, drummer of "The Grateful Dead", master conga player Giovanni Hidalgo and tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, along with Flora Purim, Babatunde Olatunji, Sikiru Adepoju and Vikku Vinayakram. In 1991 the Planet Drum project won the Grammy Award 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. In addition, Airto's song "Samba de Janeiro" was remixed by the Bellini Brothers and landed at Number 1 on the dance floor in 27 countries across Europe and Japan for three months.

Airto's recording for European based label Melt 2000 called "Killer Bees" features Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, Chick Corea, Mark Egan and Hiram Bullock; was one of the most critically acclaimed albums on the European market. Other releases on this label include the group "Fourth World" with Jose Neto, Gary Meek and Flora Purim.

In 2001 when Airto recorded with Japan’s renowned Kodo group, he contributed with two of his compositions: "Maracatu" and "Berimbau Jam". The song "Maracatu" was chosen to be one of the official songs for the 2002 World Cup in Asia to open the ceremonies for the event in Japan.

In September of 2002, Brazil's President Fernando Henrique Cardoso inducted Airto Moreira and Flora Purim to the "Order of Rio Branco", which was created in 1963 to formally recognize Brazilian individuals who have significantly contributed to the promotion of Brazil's international relations.

For three years Airto was a professor at the Ethnomusicology department of UCLA, and broke new ground in musical concepts and creative energy. In 2006 he was featured on Chick Corea’s five cd box-set entitled “Five Trios” along with bassist Eddy Gomes. He also composed and performed with the help of Gil Evans, a project called “Brazilian Spiritual Mass” with the WDR Philharmonic Orchestra in Cologne Germany. Airto was also a featured guest of the Boston Pops Philharmonic Orchestra with whom he performed a piece called “Pela Floresta” inspired by the Brazilian Amazon forest.

Airto is presently promoting his new solo album release called “ALUÊ” which he recorded and has already toured in Brazil, featuring his daughter, Diana Purim on vocals. They are currently preparing for upcoming performances in Europe and the USA.


Airto plays Zildjian cymbals, Odery drums and Peter Engelhart metal percussion.