Rolando Matias & Afro-Rican Ensemble
Rolando Matias & Afro-Rican Ensemble

About a decade ago, Rolando conceptualized 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,legendary pianist Eddy Martinez, violinist & trombonist Lew Kahn, legendary bassist Essiet Essit, “1 O’Clock Master” Antonio Orta, 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, Greg Abate, Aruan Ortiz, Jon Ozmet,Pepe Gonzalez, Hector Martignon, Greg Abate, Andy Gonzalez, Adela Dalto, Kim Pencyl, The Navigators , the master of the spoken word the legenday Umar Bin Hassan from The Last Poets among others.

The Afro-Rican Ensemble

The international award winning Afro-Latin jazz septet, The Afro-Rican Ensemble, have established themselves as one of the hottest and most requested Latin ensembles in the country. Thanks to their blistering performances at festivals, music halls and jazz series, the Afro-Rican Ensemble is highly regarded in the jazz world both nationally and internationally.

The Ensemble’s recent success at both the Jamaica Ocho Rios Jazz Festival and the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival has opened the door to play other Caribbean jazz festivals. This has also lead to an invitation to head back to Jamaica for a Thanksgiving, 2000 weekend performance at the Coral Cliff Hotel & Casino in Montego Bay. And a return engagement to the Jamaica Ocho Rios Jazz Festival for 2001!

The Afro-Rican Ensemble has performed or shared the stage with the elite of jazz for the new millennium along with living legends: Giovanni Hidalgo, David Sanchez, Hector Martignon, Paquito D’Rivera, Gerald Albright, Special FX, The Rippingtons, James Moody, Rufus Reid, Andy Gonzalez, Chucho Valdez, Adela Dalto, Christian McBride, Toots Thieleman, Kenny Werner, Stanley Terrentine, Joshua Redman, Brad Malhdau, Johann Brackeen, the legendary Orquesta Aragon from Cuba, Steve Reid, Nina Freelon, Pamela Williams, the legendary Claude “Fiedler” Williams, Carlos Malta, Los Hombres Calientes (Bill Summers, Irwin Mayfield, and the departed, Jason Marsalis), Kenny Rankin, Sunny Sumter, Toni Nation (Austrailia), Mimmi Fox, and many others. And their unanimous decision was clear, the Afro-Rican Ensemble is breaking through the international scene aggressively with their own brand and sound of Latin flavored jazz. While paying their respect to established jazz traditions, the Ensemble adds their personalized flavor to the jazz mix.

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