Friday, May 13, 2016

Francisco Mela - Fe (2016)

Label: Self Released

It's no secret that for most of the 20th Century, Cuban music and musicians played important roles in influencing and revitalizing North American popular culture. From Ernesto Lecuona and Desi Arnaz to Chano Pozo, Paquito D'Rivera and Gloria Estefan, a wide stylistic panorama, from classical to pop and jazz idioms, has been constantly invigorated by the presence of supremely talented Cuban musicians and their distinctive music traditions. Mela is very much a part of that grand and glorious tradition. His imposing talent will be on full display, bearing ear witness to his interactive quartet, featuring saxophonist Greg Osby, pianist Sam Yahel, and bassist Matt Penman.

Half Note Records released Cirio (Sept. 23), Francisco Mela's first live allbum and second recording as a leader. The Cuban-born drummer assembled a superior cast of playmates - Jason Moran, Lionel Loueke, Mark Turner and Larry Grenadier - for this live recording captured at the Blue Note Club in New York City. Together they make music informed by the rhythms of Mela's homeland, while also going beyond into adventurous modern jazz. In the process, he evinces a versatility rare among young players; his interactions with different combinations of group members underscore his collaborative instincts.

He is currently a favorite among elite jazz instrumentalists such as Joe Lovano (Us Five), John Scofield (John Scofield Trio), Joanne Brackeen and as a regular member of Kenny Barron's working trio, all of whom cite his charisma, sophistication, and life-affirming spirit.

His first opportunity to perform outside of Cuba came when Hernández was booked for an appearance at the Cancún Jazz Festival. In 1997, Francisco returned to Mexico to perform in Cancún with his own group, the MelaSon Latin Jazz Band. Then, a chance encounter with Panamanian jazz pianist Danilo Pérez led him to a life-changing decision. "Danilo encouraged me to move to Boston," Francisco reminisces. "He said, 'Don't worry. if you come to Boston, you're going to end up playing with better people than me.'"

He initially planned to study at either Berklee College or The New England Conservatory of Music, but professional opportunities headed him in another direction. It wasn't long before Francisco was the house drummer of Wally's Café, one of Boston's hottest jazz clubs. While honing his own sound as a jazz drummer and broadening his leadership role as leader of a quintet, he also had an opportunity to back such world class talent as Pérez, fellow Cuban Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and his longtime idol, drummer Roy Haynes.

Eventually, he started playing with music professors at Berklee. Then, one day, he received a call to teach at the prestigious institution. He currently balances a hectic schedule of appearances with the aforementioned pianist Kenny Barron, saxophonists Joe Lovano and George Garzone, bassist John Patitucci, guitarist John Scofield. Francisco's professional and artistic horizons continue to broaden as he collaborates with more and more musicians.


"One of the most important Cuban drummers in jazz."
- JazzTimes

"Mr. Mela is a bandleader on the rise."
- The New York Times

1. Ancestros (4:12)
2. Mr. Alden (5:47)
3. Don Mccoy (6:23)
4. Fe (3:57)
5. Romeo Y Julieta (5:04)
6. Reflections (4:43)
7. Curcuros (3:24)
8. Lovano s Mood (4:02)
9. Just Now (6:43)
10. Open Dance (7:38)

Francisco Mela
Leo Genovese
Gerald Cannon

Special Guest: John Scofield