Airto Moreira was born in Itaiopolis, Brazil on August 5, 1941 into a family of folk healers but was raised in Curitiba and Sao Paulo. Showing an extraordinary talent for music at a young age, he became a professional musician at age 13, and his first landmark recording was “Quarteto Novo” with Hermeto Pascoal in 1967. Shortly after, he followed his wife Flora Purim to the U. S., settling in New York City.
Airto began playing regularly with jazz musicians in the city beginning with the bassist Walter Booker and through him began playing with Joe Zawinul, who in turn introduced him to Miles Davis. At this time Miles was mounting the seminal fusion recording Bitches Brew to which Airto became a part of.
After two years with Miles, Airto joined Miles alumni Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Miroslav Vitous forming Weather Report and recording their self-titled debut album. He left Weather Report and joined Chick Corea’s new band Return To Forever, drumming on the debut Return To Forever and Light As A Feather, commonly regarded as fusion classics.
Airto has played with many of the greatest names in jazz including Cannonball Adderley, Lee Morgan, George Benson, Donald Byrd, Paul Desmond, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, John McLaughlin, Astrud Gilberto, Keith Jarrett and George Duke just to name a few. He also has played with symphonic orchestras and as a solo percussionist, and during live performances often includes a samba solo, where he emulates the sound of an entire band using just a single pandeiro.
In addition to jazz concerts and recordings, Airto has composed and contributed music scores to both television and film including Apocalypse Now and Last Tango In Paris. The drummer and percussionist has taught at UCLA and the California Brazil Camp and collaborated with his wife Flora and P.M. Dawn on “Non-Fiction Burning” for the Aids benefit album Red Hot + Rio produced by the Red Hot Organization.
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Naná Vasconcelos was born in Recife, Brazil on August 2, 1944. At age 12 he began playing his father’s guitar and joined the city’s marching band. His intense curiosity and inquisitive ear prompted him to listen to music from Brazil’s greatest composer Villa Lobos to Jimi Hendrix. He played with every imaginable musical configuration in Recife from orchestras to street bands until finally moved to Rio where he began performing with Milton Nascimento.
By 1970 Argentinean tenor, Gato Barbieri came through Rio and invited Nana to join his group and everywhere the played Nana created a sensation. After the tours end he settled in Paris where he made his first recording, “Africa Deus”. He returned to Brazil to record Amazonas, began an eight-year collaboration with guitarist Egberto Gismonti, returned to New York and formed the group “Cordona” with Don Cherry and Collin Walcott, while touring and recording with Pat Metheny.
Throughout his career he has worked with everyone from B.B. King to Jean Luc Ponty to the Talking Heads but has never become a studio musician. With over two-dozen albums as a leader, Nana has contributed special energies to another sixteen albums with such musicians as Walter Bishop Jr., Jan Gabarek, Pierre Favre and Danny Gottlieb that go well beyond the usual contributions of a percussionist.
A master all of Brazil’s percussion instruments, specializing in the berimbau and taking it far beyond its traditional uses, he currently leads his own group “Bushdance” and has developed a theatrically staged piece that explores the full, fascinating range of sounds and songs that lie in the heart of his music.
Nana Vasconcelos has performed at the Woodstock Jazz Festival, “Luz De Candeeiro” to the AIDS benefit compilation album Onda Sonora: Red Hot + Lisbon produced by the Red Hot Organization and was awarded the Best Percussionist Of The Year by the Down Beat Critics Poll for seven consecutive years, from 1984 to 1990. He continues to perform, record and tour.
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Oscar Castro-Neves was born one of triplets on May 15, 1940 in Rio de Janiero. Discovering his interest in music at an early age, by six he was playing the little viola and the cavaquinho and forming a band with his brothers. He found his musical interest in the synthesis of European classical influenced altered chords with the bittersweet samba-cancao.
He would learn from Johnny Alf who was deeply influenced by jazz, as would all musicians who chose the path to bossa nova. However it wasn’t until the 60s that it would catch on and in 1962 he was part of the historic Carnegie Hall Bossa Nova Festival.
Soon after he befriended Paul Winter and recorded his debut Oscar! on Paul’s label Living Music. That recording led to other sessions as a leader and performances with the likes of Vinicius de Moraes, Dorival Caymmi, and Quarteto em Cy. In 1966 he recorded with Tom Jobim on his Apresenta album before joining Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66 and recording Fool On The Hill. Having recorded three albums, he had already gained immediate fame blending commercially Brazilian, jazz and American pop.
As an arranger he has worked for Quincy Jones, Flora Purim, Laurindo Almeida, Joao Gilberto, played with Yo Yo Ma, Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Toots Thielemans, Stevie Wonder, John Klemmer and Stan Getz and been involved in projects with Dave Grusin, Herbie Hancock and Michael Brecker.
Guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves continues to record, compose, arrange, score movies and television, perform and tour worldwide.
Tania Maria was born on May 9, 1948 in Sao Luis, Maranhao in northern Brazil. She began playing piano at 7, became a leader at 13 of a band organized by her father, won first place in a local music contest and began playing dances, in clubs and on the radio. It was her father who encouraged her to study piano so that she could play in his weekend jam sessions. By doing so she absorbed the rhythms and melodies of samba, jazz, pop and Brazilian chorinho. Since then she has never worked in anyone else’s group.
Tania released her first album ”Apresentamos” in 1969 with a second in 1971 but it was her move to France that exploded her on the international scene. She began touring and while performing in Australia she caught the ear of guitarist Charlie Byrd who recommended her to Concord Records.
Tania’s formidable musical precision and freewheeling spirit has been heard at virtually every important jazz festival in the world and has appeared on countless television and radio shows. She has recorded numerous albums, has been nominated for a Grammy in the category of “Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Female, and has played with such greats as Steve Gadd, Anthony Jackson, Sammy Figueroa and Eddie Gomez to name a few.
The Brazilian artist, singer, composer, bandleader and pianist also has a law degree She sings mostly in Portuguese but also English. Her music is sometimes pop, jazz, and unmistakably Brazilian. Whether playing fiery samba, tranquil bossa or any other style, Tania Maria maintains a style that is uniquely her own. Her vibrant voice, brilliant piano work and outstanding performances have made an artist of increasing international popularity.
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Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor Baron Thielemans was born on April 29, 1922 in Brussels, Belgium. Known to the world as Toots, he began his musical training on accordion at age three. Not playing harmonica until he was seventeen, Toots original reputation was made as a guitarist greatly influenced by Django Reinhardt. By 1949 he was sharing the Paris Jazz Festival bandstand with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Max Roach and Sidney Bechet for a jam session. That same year he began touring Europe with Benny Goodman and making his recording debut with Zoot Sims.
Moving to the US in 1952 he joined Charlie Parker’s All-Stars and worked with Miles Davis and Dinah Washington. He played and recorded with names like Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, George Shearing, Quincy Jones, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, The Happenings, Astrud Gilberto, Shirley Horn, Elis Regina and others.
His composition “Bluesette”, recorded in 1962, where he introduced whistling and guitar in unison, has become a jazz standard. Norman Gimbel later penned the lyrics and the tune became a worldwide hit for several singers and is still highly requested.
His trademark harmonica playing and whistling has been heard in movie scores, television series and commercials. He has been a proponent of world music releasing a French flavored album Chez Toots and the two-volume Brasil Project. He has received honorary doctorates, made a baron by King Albert II of Belgium, and in 2008 became a NEA Jazz Master.
Apart from his popularity as an accomplished musician, he is well liked for his modesty and kind demeanor. The composer and musician continues to play and record and is credited with single-handedly introducing the chromatic harmonica as a jazz instrument in the fifties, playing with the dexterity of a saxophone.
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