Paoli Mejías is an eclectic, unorthodox and inventive
percussionist with an ear not only for great music but for a
great band to perform that music. His latest release,
Transcend, blends jazz over-tones with Latin influences,
creating an amalgam of groovy sounds that captivate and
entertain from the first tune to the last. The list of
sidemen is varied and impressive and the sound of this music
is big and funky. Everything sits deep in the pocket, as
well as showcasing the band and the individual soloists.
Transcend is a fresh and captivating modern jazz release.
The disc is filled with originals from band members. The
first of these is "Encomienda" written by saxophonist Miguel
Zenón. The tune begins with a horn melody, followed by a
vampy piano/percussion grove, which kicks into a medium
tempo Latin feel. Zenón's melody is poppy and punchy, and
he takes a wonderful solo over his composition. Mejías and
the percussion section are featured in a breakdown over the
piano vamp to end the tune.
"Pasaporte" was written by pianist Yan Carlos Artime. The
balladic, swirling introduction settles into a medium tempo,
heavy with Latin inflections from percussion and piano.
Artime plays his melody alone and is then doubled on
saxophone. This tune also features vocals and a percussion
breakdown. From saxophonist Jaleel Shaw comes "Conflict of
interests". The tune begins as a tenor/drums duet before
settling into a fast, loose afro-Cuban feel. Everyone does
a wonderful job on solos. "Egbin' pa mi" is an eclectic
tune, beginning with a cacophony of sound from the horns,
piano and percussion. The melody, on soprano sax slides in
beneath this. The high intensity rhythm section playing
continues during solos and makes this one of the most
unusual and interesting tracks on the CD.
The program continues with another from Artime, entitled
"Bailamo' a 7 mamá?" The tune begins with a syncopated horn
line which falls into a cha-cha-esque vibe, set in a medium
tempo. Bassist Hans Glawischnig takes a particularly fine
solo, and the percussion breakdown is again over a funky
piano vamp from the composer. "Eshu l'ona" is another one
of the most interesting tunes, set in a brisk 7/8 tempo.
The odd time signature is handled effortlessly by the band,
and both the melody and solos sound seamlessly smooth. The
title track is a moody and atmospheric ballad. The band
achieves a gorgeous, gently "shimmering" feel. "El León" is
a fast samba-esque tune, featuring vocals and another
magnificent percussion solo. The disc closes with another
lively Latin vocal tune, entitle "Oye como suena".
Paoli Mejías transcends the conventions of mainstream jazz,
creating a rich tapestry of original, Latin flavored,
improvisational music. One thing I've yet to mention is
that this band swings! Mejías is a talented and groovy
percussionist and his chosen sidemen feed off of his deep
grooves. He brings out the best in them and they bring out
the best in him. Transcend is full of spirited, fiery
Latin. The material is well written and well performed.
This is compelling music - an impressive debut.