In this age of drum machines and digital synthesizers, it might seem hard to understand why we need drummers. In western culture Marching Band and Rock Bands still use drummers but they are mostly in the background with the simple goal of keeping everyone else playing together. What about drumming for the sake of drumming? That is where Airto Moreira enters. Jazz music, Moreira's genre of choice, is all about exploring everything that is possible; and that is exactly what Moreira has been doing for decades. Always trying new ideas, he is constantly innovating and staying on the cutting edge. There are no plain beats being tapped out when he is involved.
Airto Moreira began playing the drums when he was 14 in Brazil. He had spent time watching the drummer at a local dance hall; and one day when the regular drummer was unavailable, the bandleader ask Airto if wanted to play. He had never played before but had studied the standard beats the band was using. He sat down and gave it a shot. Break out moments like this have followed Moreira throughout his life.
When he was 16, he moved to São Paulo to begin his career as a drummer. It is here that he began to experiment with other percussion instruments and incorporating them into his performances. And this is when he met his future wife, singer Flora Purima. He started listening to Jazz music which at first he did not understand, but he continued to listen to it, eventually breaking through its mystery. He would fall in love with Jazz, and he fell in love with the women who helped introduce him to it. When Flora left for Los Angeles to further her career, he followed to convince her to come back to Brazil. Instead, they both moved to New York and began rocky careers as professional musicians. Slowly, Moreira's career took off when he finally started meeting other Jazz musicians. His ability to use other percussion besides the drum set made him a versatile performer that groups were looking for.
Eventually, he was asked to help record an album for Wayne Shorter. When he arrived at the studio, he found another drummer already playing. The producer told Airto that this was legendary musician Chick Corea. Moreira was so overwhelmed that he walked out of the studio, but Flora convinced him to go back in and play. From that point on, his phone was ringing off the hook from people wanting Airto to play for them.
Shortly after this, he got his next big break. Someone claiming to be Mile Davis's manager called stating that Davis wanted Moreira to play with him. Still overwhelmed by all of his recent success, Moreira hung up on the caller. Lucky for him, the manager called back.
It was during his sessions with Miles Davis that Airto Moreira really took off as a drummer. Davis told Airto not to “bang - just listen and play.'” He instructed Airto to be patient and understand that Jazz is a collaboration and not a race. He didn't have to be faster or louder than anyone else.
This is the moment when Airto learned to be a creator and innovator on his own. While he would continue to work with legendary performers like Miles Davis and Chick Corea, Airto was now able to take the lead and showcase his own abilities.
Today, Moreira continues to develop to styles and techniques even incorporating machines and as well as real people. He uses the influences from Jazz, Latin, and Hip Hop to produce a sound completely original.