Ever since he was very young, he was taken with disco music. He participated in dance contests with his older sister, became a record collector and, in 1982, discovered rock. Dedicating considerable amounts of time to research, he collected a huge quantity of albums, magazines, encyclopedias, and books on rock. He then became the vocalist of the hard rock band Kabbalah. Abandoning high school, he wrote in a black music 'zine, became a DJ, and organized a soul and funk week at the Sound and Image Museum of Rio de Janeiro (MIS) with friend Lisiane.
Then Motta met Comprido (aka Luiz Fernando, future Conexão Japeri guitarist). Playing jams in rehearsal studios, the two of them gave birth to Conexão Japeri, which was first called Expresso Realengo. In 1988, the group was hired by Warner and released Ed Motta e Conexão Japeri, which had two hits: "Manuel" and "Vamos Dançar." In 1990, Motta departed for his solo career, recording Um Contrato com Deus (influenced by Prince's Sign 'O' the Times), in which almost all instruments were played by him and his friend and partner Bombom. In the mid-'90s, he went to New York to record an album (never released in Brazil) with Eddie Gomez, Bernard Purdie, and Chuck Rainey, and stayed there for one year. In that period he wrote "Crescente Fértil," which, three years later, had lyrics penned by Aldir Blanc and was included in Aldir's 50 Anos. Returning to Brazil, he recorded the Pequeno Dicionário Amoroso film soundtrack and performed throughout the country and in the U.S.; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Rome, Italy; and Paris, France. With Manual Prático Para Bailes Festas e Afins (Universal, 1997), Motta received his first gold record. He recorded two award-winning film soundtracks, Ninó and Uma Janela Para o Cinema, and performed with Roy Ayers at New York's Central Park. In 2000, he presented his show Músicas Antigas e Algumas Inéditas, in which, backed by a jazz trio, he performed standards of American and Brazilian music and new compositions.
Motta's star rose higher in the new century beginning with Dwitza in 2002, an album proclaimed by many Brazilian and European critics as one of the finest melds of jazz, soul, and Brazilian music ever. Dwitza was followed by the equally well-received Poptical a few months later. In 2005, Aystelum showcased a different musical genre on each track, and displayed the expansive variety in Motta's musical vocabulary; he modestly claimed he came by it via the 30,000-plus LPs in his record collection. While his 2006 live album Ao Vivo hit the Brazilian charts, it was 2008's studio effort Chapter 9, sung completely in English, that garnered more notice despite its darker overall themes and textures. It was greeted with an ecstatic reception in Brazil, despite being sung in a foreign tongue. Motta continued to tour nationally and globally, and was particularly well received on the jazz festival circuit and in Japan. Savvy critics regarded Chapter 9 as a masterpiece. Released in 2009, Piquenique was a celebratory return not only to Portuguese, but to brighter soul, jazz, and pop stylings.
In 2013, Motta released AOR, which reflected his love of early-'70s through early-'80s radio format sounds and easily melded jazz, pop, and funk with glossy studio production. It was released in both Portuguese and English and became an immediate smash, celebrated globally particularly for its single version of "Dondi," featuring former Motown guitarist David T. Walker. Though originally issued in Brazil and Europe, it received an American release via the Tummy Touch label. The English-language version broadened Motta's profile to a bigger Anglo audience. He followed the album with Perpetual Gateways in early 2016. Produced by Kemau Kenyatta (Gregory Porter), the guest list included an all-star cast of West Coast musicians (and Motta's idols) including Patrice Rushen, Hubert Laws, Marvin "Smitty" Smith, Tony Dumas and Charles Owens. ~ Alvaro Neder & Thom Jurek, Rovi