#107 Paoli Mejias- Percussionist for Santana, Eddie Palmieri and More!
Today’s guest is Paoli Mejias, Performing for more than 25 years, Grammy nominee Paoli Mejías 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.
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.
Happy Birthday shoutout to Steve Jordan!!!!
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Music News for this week…..
Maroon 5 confirms Super Bowl gig despite 85k signatures on a petition to stop it. Big Boi of Outkast and Travis Scott will also be performing. Travis said he would only perform if the NFL donated to charity. Kanye West will not be performing at Coachella because the festival would not build him a giant dome in the middle of the festival. He is also welcoming a fourth child with his wife soon-ish. NYC’s Highline Ballroom is officially closing, but the owner is looking for a new spot to move the venue to in the Chelsea/Meatpacking area of Manhattan. Bonaroo releases their lineup and like Coachella, they are making an effort to make sure concertgoers feel safe and welcome.
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 started by listening to folkloric music of Puerto Rico like Plena and Bomba before expanding to more Afro-Cuban styles of music. Groups like Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, & Afrocuba de Matanzas, as well as learning about different conga players like Tata Güines, Ray Barretto & Carlos “Patato” Valdez (who made some albums with Latin Percussion).
One of Paoli’s first gigs was playing congas with a steel pan group (this video is not the band Paoli played with, just an example of an ensemble). before moving onto the likes of Bobby Valentin, Luis Enrique, Seis del Solar and Eddie Palmieri.
Paoli got the call to play with Seis del Solar because Sammy Figueroa got busy with other work. Paoli got the call to play with Eddie Palmieri at first because Richie Flores had another gig. Eddie called down to Puerto Rico and Paoli’s bata teacher Jose Ramierez recommended him.
In talking about protecting your fingers, Paoli says he likes the Nexcare tape for his calluses. Damon also uses the waterproof Nexcare tape, but more recently has been using the Flexible fabric Band-Aids and sometimes uses this Nexcare tape over the Band-Aids if necessary. For the paper cut like splits, Paoli uses a liquid bandage with the Mueller MTape.
Paoli started the Conga Borikua page on YouTube to introduce the world to some of the great percussionists in Puerto Rico that may not be as well known as the Giovanni Hidalgos and Richie Flores’ of the world.
For all those that may not know or may have forgotten, computers used to have to “dial up” to use the internet and it would sound LIKE THIS.
The Conga Borikua video that (young and beard-free) Marcos was in can be seen HERE.
Damon brings up the Kip Hanrahan recordings that was the predecessor to the Deep Rumba albums. The song “The Hasheater at the Gates of the Summer City” is a fast rumba (guaguanco) featuring Paoli (left speaker) and Richie (right speaker) trading quinto solos on top of Robby Ameen (drums) and Milton Cardona (congas).