Born: March 7, 1970 Primary Instrument: Percussion
Paoli Mejias - percussion, composer, recording artist, bandleader
Performing for more than 20 years, Grammy nominee Paoli Mejias has already distinguished himself as a young master percussionist and is ranked among the best in both salsa and Latin jazz. Paoli is now at the vanguard of Latin jazz as leader of his own Quintet with three successful CDs as band leader: “JAZZAMBIA”(2008), “Transcend” (2006) and “Mi Tambor” (2004) which received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album.
Born March 7, 1970 in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, percussionist Paoli Mejias' rise to Latin jazz fame is a story of sweat and dedication. Completely self taught, Paoli purchased his first set of congas at age twelve, inspired by records of conga great Carlos “Patato” Valdes and Latin jazz innovators Batacumbele and Irakere. Learning by imitating the sounds he heard on the records, Paoli taught himself the language of the congas without the benefit of an instructor. By his mid-to-late teens, he could be found at jam sessions in the streets and on the beaches of San Juan. He earned invitations from bandleaders like Rafú Warner, José Nogueras, Glen Monroig and Charlie Sepúlveda. As he worked his way up the live music food chain in Puerto Rico, Paoli found himself performing alongside the Latin jazz legends who had inspired him in his early years.
Paoli's résumé includes top jazz and salsa artists like Tito Puente, Dave Samuels, Dave Valent�-n, Paquito d'Rivera, Chick Corea, David Sánchez and Danilo Pérez, who all have called on Paoli for his unique blend of melodic sensitivity and blinding technique. As Puerto Rico's first-call conguero, Paoli has performed and recorded with artists like Luis Enrique, Marc Anthony, La India, Tito Puente, Seis del Solar, & Eddie Palmieri with whom he toured the largest jazz festivals for more than a decade. Paoli's discography as side-man includes more than 20 commercial recordings, among them Grammy nominated “Acuarela de Tambores” by Alex Acuña, and Grammy Award winner “Masterpiece” by Eddie Palmieri and Tito Puente.
Paoli made his successful debut as a bandleader in 2004 with his self-produced record “Mi Tambor” which received a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album in 2005. Showered with positive press and accolades from the worldwide jazz community, Paoli's transition from sideman to focal point was explosive. His 2006 follow-up release “Transcend” features some of the New York Latin jazz scene's finest: Luis Perdomo, Miguel Zenón, Jaleel Shaw, Hans Glawischnig, Antonio Sánchez, all of whom are also recording on his 3rd CD “JAZZAMBIA” released November 30, 2008.
“It's his work as a leader that best reflects the importance of Mej�-as as a force within and beyond Latin music...” - Drum!
“Puerto Rican percussion ace Paoli Mej�-as' self-produced album “Mi Tambor” is a dynamic fusion of progressive salsa, forward-thinking Latin jazz, and folkloric elements...” Mark Holson - Jazziz
“In this recording, his range of talents becomes clearer as he demonstrates his mastery of Afro-Caribbean percussion instruments (congas, timbales, bongo, buleador, plena drums, etc.), and the integration of music from other cultures. Paoli continues to grow, surprise, and delight listeners who seek quality in their music.” - Aguzate.org
“Once again Mejias explores a kaleidoscope of rhythms from Greece, India and the world over that are fused together making it one language for all to understand. Pushing the boundaries of not only the Latin Jazz genre but also Jazz itself, Mej�-as welcomes to the pot all kinds of influences. “Transcend” is a breath of fresh air and a very progressive piece of work. Kudos to Mej�-as by truly making music universal.” Javier Rivera - Escencia Latina
“The [HotHouse] festival’s biggest surprise was PAOLI MEJIAS AND HIS QUINTET. This group took everyone by surprise with their musical skills and energy in their interpretation of modern jazz and fusing it with Caribbean and Latin music. Paoli Mej�-as is truly becoming a recognizable figure as one of the most talented percussionists on the planet. This group brought the house down.” Carlos Flores, PuertoRicanChicago.Com Newsletter
Consistently, each and every review acclaims his ability to fill a venue with his charisma and energetic Afro-Caribbean rhythms bringing the public to their feet. Complimented by the best jazz musicians, Paoli’s Quintet is creating a new style of Latin Jazz that goes above and beyond the genre in the traditional sense, incorporating unexpected elements of Asian, Greek, Flamenco, and African influences. The result is intriguing and exhilarating; the public becomes enveloped in the tight ensemble’s passion for music that is a delight to hear, and remarkable to witness in a live setting.
An experienced clinician, Paoli has given master classes at the University of Washington, the Music Conservatory of Puerto Rico, Cal State University, and “El Batey” the Puerto Rican Cultural Center of Chicago, The World Percussion Festival in Seattle, FITA (Festival Internacional de Tradiciones AfroAmericanas) and the Montreal Percussion Festival, among others.
Paoli endorses Latin Percussion (congas & percussion), Sabian (cymbals), Remo (drum heads), Vater (drum sticks), and Hansenfutz (practice pedal).
There are standard structural elements of Afro-Cuban music here � tumbaos and montuno sections � but there are also rhythm strategies that come from various kinds of new jazz that many would say are not Latin at all. (One track, Diaspora, culminates brilliantly with Mr.Zenón soloing with more free-jazz gusto than he ever seems to use, over the interlocking patterns of two hand drummers.) The point is that jazz was part Latin from the start, and has become only more so. NEW YORK TIMES, Ben Ratliff
JAZZAMBIA: A historic recording, if only for the depth of the talent involved, featuring some of the best players in the New York scene, including the ever present Hans Glawischnig on bass, Luis Perdomo on piano, Antonio Sanchez and Tony Escapa on drums, Miguel Zenon, Jaleel Shaw, Ricardo Pons and Chris Cheek on saxophones and the leader Mejias on drums; he’s helped on two tunes by Tito De Gracia. And they produce some fierce and intelligent music, as might be expected. It’s searching jazz, flexible, and at this point so much modern jazz has taken on the Spanish tinge that it’s hard to separate this as Latin jazz; it’s just modern, part of the geometry of invention that includes Havana, Puerto Rico, New York and a good part of the rest of the world. Some tunes have tumbaos, like the tag on Jibarology; some don’t. Hard to find a cliché; this is the sound of the modern world. Again, historic. Highly Recommended. DESCARGA
Transcending Expectations DOWNBEAT
Paoli Mejias transcends the conventions of mainstream jazz, creating a rich tapestry of original, Latin-flavored, improvisational music JAZZ IMPROV
This exceptional session [Transcend] is his follow-up effort to his 2005 Latin Grammy nominated release Mi Tambor, and it exceeds all expectations JAZZIZ
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