Born: November 20, 1957 Primary Instrument: Percussion
Closed to a decade ago, Rolando conceptualize The Afro-Rican Ensemble, with a vision and direction the Ensemble followed to national and international recognition. As an entertainer and musician, Rolando cannot be denied: a Multi-talented percussionist, Afro-Caribbean musicologist, Ethno-Foklorist and an accomplished harmonica player. Rolando has traveled the U.S. playing in a wide variety of groups, performing everything from the blues to Latin rock, and everything in between. A self-taught musician, Rolando, applied his formal training as an Architect into his musical education, seeking perfection, has sought out the greats during his travels in order to perfect his musical techniques as a percussionist, harmonica player and composer. Rolando started playing percussion at a young age in Cupey Alto, at the local Bembes of the neighborhood. Bembe is a gathering of rumberos jamming and improvising together. We started with percussion grooves, pretty soon a trombone player joined in, a trumpeter and all of a sudden the place was kicking, it was a great scene. Rolando has completed his musical education in music and composition thru private education and formal studies at The Ohio State University, School of Music. He also advanced his studies as a Master Percussionist in Cuba under the tutelage of a number Cuba's finest master percussionists from Havana and Matanzas. These studies completed Rolando's formal training as Master Percussionist on drums, hand drumming and ethnic percussion as well as a Jazz composer. His performances range from the playful to the passionate, making this powerful Puerto Rican presence a pleasure worth watching. Rolando has performed or recorded with the likes of 2007 Latin Grammy winner Brian Lynch, multi-grammy winner David Sanchez, Chuchito Valdez, Benny Maupin, Patrice Rushen, Leon “Ndugu” Chadler, Azar Lawrence, Othello Molineaux, guitarist Mimmi Fox, percussionists: Bobby Matos, Bobby Sanabria, Bill Summers and Lenny Castro, bluesmen: Eddie The Chief Clearwater, Kenny Neal, Duke Robillard, Australian Dave Hole, Debbie Davies and Howard Scott and the World Band, the late great pianist from Cleveland Roberto Ocasio, Brazilian reedman Carlos Malta, the B-3 madman Ron Levy, Pam Williams, trumpeters: Pharez Whitted, Derek Gardner and Latin Grammy nominee Ray Vega, Los Hombres Calientes, guitarist Jim Savitt, Hector Martignon, Greg Abate, Andy Gonzalez, Adela Dalto, Kim Pencyl, The Navigators , the master of the spoken word the legenday Umar Hassan from The Last Poets among others.
JazzTimes: ...solid musicianship, the right dash of sabor, and a refreshing absence of self-indulgence. Marcela Breton
Latin Beat Magazine: ...What would this world be like without any percussion instruments? For some, life would be the same as always, but it wouldn't be the same for others who regard said instruments as the musical bloodline to the soul. Latin jazz would be virtually non-existent without it, as documented in the music recently recorded by Sammy Figueroa, Chembo Corniel, Bobby Sanabria, Poncho Sanchez, Nils Fischer, Francisco Mela, Eg|i Castrillo, Bobby Matos, John Santos, Rolando Matias, Ignacio Berroa, Dafnis Prieto, Mayra Casales, David Mora, Marlon Simsn, Tito de Gracia, Paoli Mejmas, and countless more. Nelson Rodriguez
The Other Paper: Columbus ...anyway, people were having more fun on the other side by the river Sunday, where the Afro-Rican Ensemble had'em on their feet,... Lee Brown
The Paper: Grand Rapids With its full spread of Latin Percussion, the band attracted record attendance, absolutely shaking the crowd with its hypnotizing Latin swing. Julie Strand
The Latin Jazz Corner Live Volume One: Pelatula, CA
...traditional jazz musicians have spent decades building, destroying, and reconstructing the harmonic foundation of jazz. Latin Jazz musicians have emphasized rhythmic diversity, exploring the connections between jazz and a variety of Caribbean and South American traditions. Paths often cross through the stylistic embellishment of jazz standards with fixed harmonic forms, and diverge between avant-garde and Latin music. Rolando Matias and his Afro-Rican Ensemble bring all jazz roads together into an intriguing mixture of risk, experimentation and history on Live Volume One... Chip Boat
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Willing to teach:
Intermediate to advanced students
Rolando Matias is also available for clinics/workshop and afro-latin speaking forums. Other programs includes Forum/Seminar with Bobby Matos. The Afro-Rican Ensemble offers a wide variety of educational workshops that brings a clear understanding of the fusion of Latin rhythms with jazz. Latin-Jazz is made up of four building blocks: rhythmic grooves and the Clave-Cuban and Puerto Rican (e.g., rumba, son, bomba, and salsa), melody, harmony, and most importantly, improvisation. The Afro-Rican Ensemble presentations explain each of these in an exciting and accessible way. The Clave: The group demonstrates how a melody that all students recognize can sound very different depending on which side of the Clave the melody is played over, the three side or the two side. And by giving students a guide to identifying the different sections of a jazz piece, the presentation teaches students to follow the "road map" of a performance. The group shows how the Clave is at the heart of every Latin- Jazz compositions. A brief history of Afro-Caribbean music will be presented by Rolando Matias, explain the development of the music from its African roots to the assimilation of Western influences in the music, for Cuba and Puerto Rico. The Ensemble will cover the development of the Cuban Clave, and the lesser known Puerto Rican Clave, the "Cua". The Ensemble will explain that these claves will move the music with a certain flow, and will perform known melodies, played over the different claves that will demonstrate to the student, how the pulse of the clave changes the mood of the melody. The Afro-Rican Ensemble educational presentations describe the instruments the musicians play to create the music, their history and place of origin, and a quick explanation how the instruments are played and their functions inside the musical spectrum. Will talk about the development of the conga, bongos, timbales, bells, etc. and how the ethno-sociology of the afro culture creating one of the most exciting music in the world. Here is an outline of one possible workshop: The Four Elements of Latin Jazz and Synthesis of the Ensemble: 1. The First Element of Latin-Jazz: The Clave- " The Clave is the key, and the Key is the Clave" Ed Uribe This discussion introduces participants to the Cuban Clave. For example, we will play a traditional swing tune , On Green Dolphin Street, and then we will play it, with the melody on the three-side of the clave, and finally on the two-side of the clave, and ask the students the differences they felt in the pulse, the accents, the way the melody flows, etc. Then, we might play Donna Lee or Yes or No, as traditionally written, and then over the "Cua", the Puerto Rican clave, and have the student identify the differences and the similarities to the Cuban Clave. We will demonstrate how the Ensemble works together in establishing a groove, focus on a traditional Cuban son, entitled "Son de la Loma". First, the Latin percussionist demonstrates their parts alone and explains the components of their basic beat. Then, the bass player demonstrates his part alone-the "Tumbao", the keyboardist demonstrates his part alone-the "Montuno" and explains how it fits in with the bass and the percussion, and finally the horns will demonstrate how their part fit in the mix. In short, this section familiarizes the participants with the many feelings and emotions that Latin-jazz expresses by contrasting them with the more traditional approaches. 2. The Second and Third Elements of Jazz: Melody and Harmony The Ensemble will demonstrate how a composition is developed, our original composition, "Mayo 15" a bolero (Latin ballad) by our bass player Dean Hulett, will be used as an example. Dean, Mario and Eddie will explain the importance of voicing, and harmony when developing a jazz tune, and the importance of technique when performing a ballad. 3. The Fourth Element of Jazz: Improvisation Every Ensemble's compositions involves improvisation, which is the unique component of jazz in the context of instrumental music. In this section, band members explain the basic notion of improvisation and demonstrate how it is done. This section is divided in two, the rhythms instruments and harmony instruments. The demonstration begins very simply, with an improvised solo based on only one note. Then, increasingly complex solos are demonstrated, involving, 2, then 3, and then 4 notes. Then dynamic variation is added to the solo to demonstrate its role. When appropriate, participants are invited and encourage to the stage to improvise with the band. 4. The Members and Their Instruments The group members each introduce themselves, described how they first became interested in music, how their training evolved, and how the place of music in their lives today. They also demonstrate the range of sounds that can come from their instruments, explain how each is operated and maintained, and describe the technical challenges each poses. For young audiences, some participants are invited up on stage to try playing the instruments, and they receive a little tutoring. Synthesis of the Ensemble: 1. Birth and Transformation of the Band This section focuses on how the Ensemble was formed, how its stylistic directions were chosen, and how it evolved from a sextet ensemble into an established professional organization. This discussion addresses the notion of teamwork and the challenges in evolving a collective vision for an artistic partnership. With emphasis in the business of Jazz. 2. Performance Settings/Schedule/Formats This section describes the many different settings in which the Ensemble currently performs, ranging from concert halls to outdoor jazz and arts festivals to jazz clubs. Each venue poses its own unique challenges and has its own unique rewards. The discussion touches on each of these and gives participants a sense of life on the road for the Ensemble.