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Master Percussionist Paoli Mejias

Latin Grammy nominee Paoli Mejias is a distinguished master percussionist from Puerto Rico, ranked among the best in both Latin jazz and salsa. As a bandleader Paoli fuses straight-ahead jazz with African, Mediterranean & Caribbean …

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Paoli Mejias

Latin Grammy nominee Paoli Mejias is a distinguished master percussionist from Puerto Rico, ranked among the best in both Latin jazz and salsa. As a bandleader Paoli fuses straight-ahead jazz with African, Mediterranean & Caribbean folkloric rhythms to create a new dimension of Latin jazz that is global, energetic, and modern.

Performing for more than 25 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, having produced a live performance released on Blu-ray “DE JAZZAMBIA A MI TAMBOR EL CONCIERTO” (2011) and 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” Valdés 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 Valentín, 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: Miguel Zenón, Antonio Sánchez, Luis Perdomo, Jaleel Shaw, Hans Glawischnig, & Tony Escapa, all of whom also recorded on his 3rd CD “JAZZAMBIA” released in 2008.

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 educator and clinician, Paoli is Resident Artist at the Conservatorio de Musica de Puerto Rico since January 2010, and at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle Washington since 2012.  Paoli has given master classes at the Montreal Percussion Festival, the University of Washington, University of New Mexico, Cal State University, “El Batey” Puerto Rican Cultural Center of Chicago, and the World Percussion Festival in Seattle among others;  Paoli was also named an honorary member of FITA (Festival Internacional de Tradiciones AfroAmericanas) in Venezuela.

His latest project “PAOLI MEJIAS DE JAZZAMBIA A MI TAMBOR EL CONCIERTO” released on Blu-ray in the fall of 2011, is a concert of Paoli performing with the best musicians in Puerto Rico many songs from his 3 CDs, and new songs he has written. This live recording is a captivating musical journey of Paoli’s evolution as musician, bandleader, and composer. Paoli documents a historical moment in Latin jazz, celebrating the diversity of his Puerto Rican heritage and showcasing the rich talent of the new generation of musicians in Puerto Rico.

In September of 2013 Paoli received the honor of being invited by Carlos Santana to join the legendary Santana band.  While not touring with Santana, Paoli is planning his next recording project for 2014. Paoli endorses Latin Percussion (congas & percussion), Sabian (cymbals), Remo (drum heads), Vater (drum sticks), and Hansenfutz (practice pedal).

Website: paolimejias.com | Buy music on: amazon | Photos by: Juan Figueroa

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Founder, Editor, Webmaster: Latin Jazz Network, World Music Report, That Canadian Magazine. A passionate and committed communicator with a sensibility for the arts based in Toronto, Canada.

Artist Profiles

Artist Profile: Adrien Brandeis

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Pianist, composer, Adrien Brandeis
Jazz pianist and composer, Adrien Brandeis

Adrien Brandeis is a french jazz pianist and composer born in Annecy. After studying at the Nice conservatory, he moved to Paris in 2018 to study with Manuel Rocheman and graduated from the CRR conservatory in Paris.

In 2017, he produced and released his first album in quintet Euforia, which had great recognition and international success after performing in Asia (Jazzmandu Festival in Nepal, Kolkata International Jazz Festival in India).

Euforia put Adrien Brandeis, in the spotlight of the Jazz scene, and led him to be awarded the prestigious Letter One Rising Stars Jazz Award 2018. This award, which recognizes the best young European jazz artist of the year, opened the doors for him to share his music on the biggest European stages during the summer of 2019: Nice Jazz Festival (France), Umbria Jazz Festival (Italy), Leopolis Jazz Festival (Ukraine), Love Supreme Jazz Festival (England), Heineken Jazzaldia Festival (Spain), Kongsberg Jazz Festival (Norway), JazzOpen Stuttgart (Germany).

Adrien Brandeis: Euforia
Adrien Brandeis: Euforia

Subsequently, he toured Mexico to present Euforia in trio, at the International Jazz and Blues Festival of Zacatecas 2019 and in several theaters in the center of the country.

On the French scene, he has won numerous awards: first prize at the Jazz à Juan 2017, public prize at the Jazz 2017 in Porquerolles, among others.

In Paris, he has collaborated with numerous musicians such as Orlando Poleo, Inor Sotolongo, Damian Nueva, Arnaud Dolmen, Abraham Mansfaroll, Felipe Cabrera and Philippe Ciminato.

Very attached to Latin music, he went to study in Havana, Cuba, with Ernán López-Nussa to perfect his piano skills, in September 2019.

These trips and experiences enriched his piano playing and allowed him to write his second album Meetings, a quartet album with Damian Nueva, Arnaud Dolmen, Inor Sotolongo and special guest Orlando Poleo.

Adrien Brandeis featuring Orlando Poleo: Meetings
Adrien Brandeis featuring Orlando Poleo: Meetings

Meetings, released in October 2020, allows him to move towards a more modern sound while maintaining a certain freshness. It was selected as one of the best jazz albums in France in 2020 by TSF Jazz radio.

In 2021, Meetings is presented more than 30 times; including festivals and clubs in France (Altitude Jazz Festival, Festival Jazz en Sol Mineur, Festival Musique en Cour, Duc des Lombards) as well as in Mexico (Festival Internacional de Polanco, Festival Internacional de Irapuato, Ciclo de Jazz del Forum Cultural Guanajuato, Festival EuroJazz, Festival Cultural de Mayo in Jalisco).

After two tours in Mexico in May and November 2021, where he was very well received by the Mexican public, he created a strong bond with this country and was fascinated by its culture and the places he visited.

It is then, that he decided to record his third album Siempre más allá, a testimony of his experiences and his personal tribute to Mexico.

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

This album was recorded as a quartet, with the musicians with whom he had shared the stage a few months before: Giliard Lopes (Brazil), José Loria Triay (Mexico) and Roberto Vizcaíno Jr. (Cuba).

Roberto Jr. Vizcaino, Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaino Guillot, Giliard Lopes, Pepe Triay - Photo: Nayeli Mejia.
Roberto Jr. Vizcaíno, Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot, Giliard Lopes, Pepe Triay – Photo: Nayeli Mejia.

He also had the collaboration of two great Cuban musicians of the international jazz scene: Horacio “El Negro” Hernández and Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot.

In the summer of 2022, he had outstanding participations in the A to jazz Festival (Bulgaria), Jazz à Toulon (France) as well as a special invitation to the San Jose Summer Jazz Festival (USA). He even had the opportunity to arrange and present his music in Piano Solo in Portugal and England.

YouTube Video – Adrien Brandeis – Siempre más allá (EPK)

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