The Brazilian jazz icons Airto Moreira and Flora Purim have had more than their fair share of challenges over the past few years. After many years in the United States, Airto and Flora are now back in their native Brazil, where both are facing worsening health and housing conditions.
"Airto and Flora's living situation is rapidly becoming unsustainable,” says daughter Diana Moreira Booker, “with no health insurance and a large increase in rent at their current location. Doctors tell us that a large part of Airto's recovery depends on an immediate change of their living environment so a move is imminent. The family is currently working toward making this happen but we cannot do this alone."
Airto Moreira (b. 1941) and Flora Purim (b. 1942) are Brazilian jazz royalty. Both came to America in 1967 (they were married several years later) and each went on to stellar careers, making significant contributions to American jazz and fusion/crossover as well as pop and world music.
Airto, a particularly persuasive percussionist, vocalist and songwriter, recorded and toured with Miles Davis for nearly two (extensively recorded) years, was a founding member of two of jazz fusion’s greatest groups (Weather Report and Return to Forever) and waxed four albums for the CTI label while contributing to some three dozen CTI albums by such artists as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Freddie Hubbard, George Benson and Deodato’s monster hit “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001).” Airto is also known for such exceptional compositions of his own as “Xibaba,” “Tombo in 7/4” and the great “Misturada.”
There’s no doubt I have heard Airto since I started listening to music. But the first time Airto rivetted me and my attention was on Bob James’ exquisite “Snowbird Fantasy,” from the keyboardist’s 1980 album ”H”. The earliest disc I have featuring Airto is the 1965 album À vontade mesmo by trombonist Raulzinho (a.k.a. Raul de Souza), who kindly autographed my copy of the 2001 CD (Raul and Airto reunited in the late seventies on many recordings made on the West Coast). Airto is incredible here (on drums), then came back years later to me with 1979’s “Amajour” (with incredible solos from Herb Alpert and Joe Farrell!) and, later, on the terrific all-star date Killer Bees in 1993.
Airto’s lovely appearance in Kristian St. Clair’s documentary This is Gary McFarland (2006) always stands out in my mind as one of his most beautiful performances (McFarland co-produced Airto’s 1970 solo debut, Natural Feelings). This is Airto Moreira, to me.
Flora, the iconic and immediately recognizable vocalist and songwriter, released her first album, the wonderful Flora é M.P.M., in 1964 (produced for CD in 2001 by my good friend Arnaldo DeSouteiro – who worked often with Flora and Airto). Flora toured Europe with Stan Getz and Gil Evans in the late sixties and put out her critically-lauded American record, Butterfly Dreams, in 1973 on the Milestone label.
Many of Flora’s Milestone records (1973-78) paired her beautifully with Joe Henderson – much of which is included on the saxophonist’s glorious 1994 box set The Milestone Years. After a series of crossover records for Warner Bros., Flora spent many years touring with Dizzy Gillespie, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and, with Airto, the Fourth World band.
It has always impressed me that author Len Lyons considered Flora’s 1976 album 500 Miles High one of the The 101 Best Jazz Albums: A History of Jazz on Records, the influential 1980 book that considered the entire history of jazz to that point.
Airto and Flora have continued recording and touring, up to Flora’s 2022 disc If You Will, for the great British Strut label. But, according to daughter Diana, “Airto has suffered many ailments over the past few years. He has been unable to continue with his therapist.
”Flora is also now experiencing her own health challenges. Having been separated for a while, Flora is back in Brazil with Airto but they really could use some home help, a therapist and a move.”
The family is asking for help. Anything we could do to help is much appreciated. If you can do anything to help Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, please go here: