Summoning an imaginative world of percussive rhythms, Mimmo Cafiero has influenced the jazz of Sicily for more than a quarter of a century.
A native of Palermo, Cafiero studied piano and sang in the chorus at the Conservatory Vincenzo Bellini from the age of 11. Teaching himself to play drums three years later, he began frequenting jam sessions, often attended by foreign jazz musicians including Ian Carr and Oliver Lake. As a member of vibraphonist Enzo Randisi's band from 1978 until 1981, he recorded two albums and toured in Spain. Accepting an invitation to join the 20-piece Brass Group Big Band in 1983, he had the opportunity to work with such guest directors as Mel Lewis, Sam Rivers, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Archie Shepp. Performing with the Reinhardt Jazz Study Orchestra in 1984 and recording with Rai Fonit Cetra in 1987, Cafiero moved to Rome, in 1988, to teach percussion at the school of music Lab 2. During the three years that he remained in Rome, he recorded two solo albums: I Go, shortly after his arrival, and Moon and Twenty Five, featuring guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, in 1990. Returning to Palermo in 1991, Cafiero accepted a teaching position at the Centro Studi Musicali of Sicilian Association Musica Insieme, and formed the Open Jazz Orchestra with Sicilian musicians. Cafiero has consistently worked to strengthen the status of jazz in Sicily. He served as president of the regional committee of the National Association of Jazz Musicians, in 1991, helping to coordinate the publication of the first catalog of Sicilian jazz and producing two CDs, The Sicilian Jazz Collection. A founder of the San Vito Jazz Festival, in 1993, he remains an artistic director of the annual fete.