This week Michael Paulo is traveling to perform in the world’s largest jazz festival, and it isn’t in New York City, Los Angeles, New Orleans or Paris. The Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia – now the largest in the world by attendance – has grown exponentially over the years, a remarkable feat given the differences in cultures from where jazz originated.
“It’s funny because Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. I find it astounding they’ve embraced an American art form such as jazz,” says Michael Paulo, who was featured on MidWeek‘s cover Oct. 27, 2011.
“I think it is a special feat, especially in the world where we have so much conflict. It is nice to be involved with an event that actually bridges the gap and promotes peace through jazz.”
Prompted by his high school band director to expand his enthusiasm for jazz, Paulo followed his passion, turning his musical talent into a thriving career.
After graduating from Saint Louis High School, Paulo joined music group Kalapana, traveling the U.S. and Europe playing and building relationships with predominant jazz artists of the last several decades.
In 1982 he landed a phenomenal opportunity touring with jazz legend and seven-time Grammy Award winner Al Jerreau. Paulo received tremendous notoriety for his work on Jerreau’s Live In London album.
After nine solo records, Paulo shifted more toward production and event coordination, keeping avenues of jazz entertainment open to the devoted fan and those just getting the jazz itch.
“Jazz is freedom of expression,” he says. “It goes back to our First Amendment rights. You’re not tied to certain structure. We can bend and shape harmonies. Jazz is very free, which makes it so interesting.”
For the third year, Paulo presents Pacific Rim Jazz Festival Nov. 3, about which Paulo is excited for many reasons.
“We’re trying to grow the event, and we have support from the Hawaii Tourism Authority,” he says. “We also have a ton of great local artists who we are trying to expose, as well as exposing Hawaii as a constant tourist destination.”
This year’s Pacific Rim Jazz festival will feature top-notch performers including Russ Freeman and The Rippingtons, four-time Grammy winner Denice Williams and Japan’s saxophone sensation Kaori Kobayashi.
“Kobayashi could be ranked up there with the best contemporary saxophonists in America. Her YouTube videos have 5 million hits. I can’t even get 50,000,” Paulo says laughingly.