This fall's AfroFolk series at the Old Town School of Folk Music spotlighted an impressively broad array of artists, including Congolese star Kanda Bongo Man, Haitian compas singer Misty Jean, and the Barbadian soca band Krosfyah. The series closes for the season tomorrow night, December 13, with Puerto Rican percussionist Paoli Mejias, who's been a prominent sideman in New York’s Latin jazz and salsa scenes since arriving in the U.S. about a decade ago; he spent ten years on the road with the great pianist Eddie Palmieri, and he’s recorded with the likes of Kip Hanrahan, Tito Puente, Plena Libre, and Charlie Sepulveda.
His second album as a leader, this year's Transcend, is deeply rooted in pure Latin jazz and features an impressive crew of heavy hitters, including Miguel Zenon, Luis Perdomo, and Antonio Sanchez—musicians in the orbit of fellow Puerto Rican David Sanchez. Mejias thickens the polyrhythmic matrix with fierce crosscutting beats on congas, chekere, and pandeiros (the key percussion instrument of plena music). The quintet he brings to Chicago is his working band, some members of which also appear on the album. The concert is free.