About Pablo Batista
Master percussionist Pablo Batista has performed, recorded and toured internationally for 30 years with some of the biggest stars in rhythm and blues, jazz, Latin, pop and gospel, including artists as diverse as Alicia Keys, Patti Labelle, Kirk Franklin, Jill Scott, Gerald Levert, Jeffrey Osborne, Phyllis Hyman, Teddy Pendergrass, Diane Reeves, Manny Oquendo and Libre, Eddie Palmieri, and Musiq. A drummer of unusually diverse talents, he is highly regarded for his professionalism, tireless work ethic and ability to listen and integrate his playing into almost any style at the highest level of musicianship. He holds the rare distinction of having performed on Grammy-winning releases in jazz, R & B and gospel, and he has also been a guest with the Philadelphia Orchestra Percussion Ensemble.
A son of Puerto Rican emigres, Pablo Batista grew up in Bethlehem Pennsylvania, where he began studying Latin percussion at the age of 9 years. As a pre-law student at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1981, Pablo came to the attention of Grover Washington, Jr. who was serving as producer for R & B star Jean Carne.He invited Pablo to perform on a record that became a huge hit. After that Pablo was frequently called to play on Philly International Records studio sessions with some of the label’s most accomplished producers and artists.
Pablo began working with Grover Washington in 1985, and from 1991 he served as his touring percussionist until the star’s untimely passing in 1999. In 2000, Pablo began 12 years of recording and touring with soul mega-star Alicia Keys. In 2010, he was on the road with her “Elements of Freedom Tour,” including the performance at the World Cup ceremonies in South Africa before an estimated combined live and broadcast audience of over one billion people.
Pablo Batista is a lifelong student of Afro-Cuban music and culture. In 1991 while between tours, he received his first grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, enabling him to do folkloric research in Cuba. He went on to receive this award four times, and continued travel to Cuba to study under the masters Pello “el Afrokan,” Roberto Vizcaino, Miguel “Anga” Diaz and others. In 2000, Pablo received the prestigious Pew Fellowship in Folk Arts, which enabled him to deepen his knowledge of the Afro-Cuban tradition at the source. In 2012, a Pew Professional Development Fellowship enabled him to travel to Santiago de Cuba. There, he studied with members of Ballet Folklórico Cutumba, one of Cuba’s most highly regarded dance and music companies, and gave a solo performance at the Santiago International Music Festival.
2013 brought a jazz residency and commission from Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, culminating in the performance in June 2014 of “The Journey” as a work-in-progress. In June 2015, he received a grant from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to expand and premiere the completed work at Temple Performing Arts Center.
Pablo Batista continues to study, practice, write, record, produce, tour and teach. He maintains a busy schedule of studio sessions, musical collaborations and varied performances with others, as well as leading his 10-piece Mambo Syndicate salsa conjunto. In October 2015 he and his band were invited to perform for Pope Francis in Philadelphia. In November, he again served as percussionist for the house band backing up R & B and pop music icons at Alicia Keys’ Annual Black Ball fundraiser in New York. In demand as an instructor when not on tour, he has for years taught low-income students at schools and community centers in North Philadelphia, and given master classes to students at Curtis Institute.