Jazz Caliente: Meet The Rhythm Makers, Part One

May 5, 2017

Us Latin jazz fans love our rhythms. They are the special sauce in the music that moves us.  Here's one of the rhythm makers who goes well beyond time-keeping, and transports us to different worlds: Airto Moreira.

Airto (say "eye-ear-toe") was born in a small village in southern Brazil.  He says he was a percussionist before he even knew what the word meant.  Before he could walk, he would start shaking and banging on the floor every time the radio played a hot song.  He had his own radio program by the time he was 6, and at 13, he was a professional musician.

Airto and his wife, the charismatic singer Flora Purim, moved to New York in the 1960s.  Airto worked with Miles Davis for a few years, then was invited to form the original Weather Report band with Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul.

American audiences were introduced to Airto and Flora primarily through Chick Corea's Return to Forever band in 1972.  

Airto's impact on modern jazz was so profound that Downbeat magazine added a new category to their reader's and critic's polls: percussion.

What's compelling about Airto is that every rhythm, counter-rhythm and poly-rhythm he plays seems as natural as breathing to him.  He appears to be in another place, conversing with the spirits.

Listen for Airto playing Keith Jarrett's composition "Lucky Southern" this week on Jazz Caliente!

Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. The program is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio