For more than two decades, Boston-based vocalist/composer Mili Bermejo has transcended the borders between cultures and musical genres. Her music blends the beautiful stories and infectious rhythms of authentic Latin American poetry/folk music with social awareness and jazz improvisation.
Critics have called her "the Latin equivalent of Abbey Lincoln...a singer/composer who challenges us with her musical honesty" (Cadence) and described her inclusive sound as "part poetry-folk, part Sarah Vaughn sophistication" (Boston Magazine) and the place "where jazz meets Latin with elegance and soul" (Boston Globe).
"Cross-cultural projects are now commonplace," writes the Boston Phoenix's Jon Garelick, "but Mili Bermejo's aesthetic has always been singular...long a fixture on the Boston scene, [she] combines all manner of Latin American folk in a way that gives her music a flavor that's as up-to-the-minute as it is Old World."
Daughter of the late Mexican composer Guillermo Bermejo and his wife Luz, an Argentinean tango singer, Ms. Bermejo's blood already contained the wealth of two musical cultures at birth. She was born in Buenos Aires, but raised in the socially and artistically diverse environment of Mexico City where she grew up internalizing the music and political statements made by the Argentineans, Chileans, Brazilians and Uruguayans who fled bloody dictatorships at home.
This cultural diversity, interaction between artists of different disciplines, and commitment to tolerance in the Mexican artistic community (following the revolution in Cuba and Mexico City's massacre in 1968) laid the groundwork for her diverse style and dedication to the social responsibility of the artist.
Although she had already performed professionally most of her life, Ms. Bermejo didn’t discover jazz until her college years when her brother introduced her to the music of Miles Davis. A chance encounter with pianist and Third Stream pioneer Ran Blake led to her first trip to America for a summer jazz program in Boston in 1978. She moved to Boston permanently to study jazz at Berklee College of Music in 1980, and accepted a faculty position following her graduation in 1984.
In addition to her degrees in composition from Berklee and the National School of Music in Mexico, she has studied with Mexican composers Julio Estrada and Federico Ibarra, vocal technique specialist Elisabeth Phinney, and jazz saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi.
Looking beyond the typical female jazz vocalist canon, Ms. Bermejo's groups feature musicians, lyrics, and archetypal themes from a variety of cultural backgrounds. A veteran educator, group leader and supporter of social causes, she was the first woman to receive the prestigious Achievement in Jazz Award from New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA). She is also a former Jazz Ambassador for the United States Information Service/Arts America, the recipient of multiple grants from New England Foundation for the Arts and Meet the Composer, and a board member of the Institute for Community Leadership in Seattle, Washington.