Thursday, November 02, 2006

interview to Airto Moreira

This time I would like to propose a chat with one of the Jazz legends I always love because of his way to be a kind of a magical percussion player , a guru .And when i met him , my sensation was to talk to a Witchdoctor... I had the chance of hearing Airto play as a guest star for an Italian group and I thought about talking to him to find out a bit more about a side of him that is little known to the public. Airto Moreira is known above all for his collaborations with Miles Davis, Weather Report and many other Jazz musicians such as Chick Corea or John McLaughlin or Keith Jarrett or even Quincy Jones, Paul Simon, Chicago, Herbie Hancock etc.. In this brief discussion I wanted to focus on the Brazilian period before he went off to New York and met all of the above mentioned names that made him become somewhat of a legend. We also spoke of New York, it was inevitable!

I am very interested in your starting out period when you played in groups such as Sambalanco Trio in 1965 with Cesar Camargo Mariano on piano and Humberto Clayber on bass or with the Sambrasa Trio also in 1965 with Hermeto Pascoal where you played the drums and this trio was very different from the others because its sound was very innovative and very articulate, simple but creative at the same time.

It’s true, here also there was much space and we were very young and ambition was sky high, we had much space up until Cesar at a certain point decided to leave the Sambalanco Trio for a singer called Marisa. We asked him to stay but he was convinced and in love, he wanted to start producing records for Marisa and so he left. Speaking with Hermeto it came out that he really liked our sound and so we decided to ask him to join us. Hermeto joined up on the condition that we changed the name from the Sambalanco Trio to the Sambrasa Trio, we agreed and with his Flute playing the sound became even richer and new, that’s when Flora Purim began singing with us.

The record entitled “Quarteto Novo” in 1967 changed the face of Brazilian music. The sound was very pure, classic but innovative at the same time. That quartet didn’t last very long, what do you remember about that period?

It was a very happy period and musically deep, the group was riding high and everybody couldn’t wait to get into the studio and play, experiment and create. The lovely thing was that, once again, there was enough room for everybody’s creativeness.

Then, after that period, Flora Purim went to New York and you followed her some time after. How did two Brazilians feel in New York?

It was fantastic, it was like being in a film and we were a part of that film. I was 23 and had difficulties because I didn’t speak English. Then we began to meet musicians like JJ Johnson, Cedar Walton and the bass player Walter Booket, then thanks to Walter we began playing with Adderley, Lee Morgan and Paul Desmon as well as Zawinul who put me onto Davis.

There started something that everybody calls ‘Jazz Fusion’ and albums like “Free” and “Fingers” were the start of this sound. The mixture between the sound of Jazz musicians like Hubert Laws or Ron Carter from CTI along with your typical touch created this kind of new sound, how would you define it?

I would simply define it as ‘Brazilian Jazz’.

You have collaborated with many musicians as a percussionist but also as a producer, I would like to ask you something about one of your productions that is very dear to me: “Amazon” by Cal Tjader from 1976?

In the beginning it was very hard work, this record united typical Californian Latin jazz with Brazilian influences. We worked on the project for more than three weeks and the result was amazing, I remember well Cal, when I see the cover it still moves me a lot, it was a great time.

What future projects do you have, are you recording anything?

Flora and myself are continuously recording, we then propose the material to labels for its publication. At the moment I am starting a 3 week tour of Japan and USA with Chick Corea and Eddie Gomez.

Ray Barretto sadly passed away not too long ago, he was also a great percussionist, did you know him?

Yes I knew him, Ray was a brilliant percussionist as well as a great person, the last time I saw him was two years ago in Barbados where we were both there for playing, we crossed each others paths quickly and then I never saw him again.

As you have probably understood Airto, just like all of the others who I have had the pleasure of interviewing, is a very simple person. His way of being made you feel that you were talking to some kind of saint or Macumbero, an experience that once again enriched my Soul Beat spirit, I hope it did the same for you. Peace all over the land.

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