Francisco Mela's Cuban Safari Quintet - CD Release Show
Francisco Mela, drums & composition
Peter Slavov, bass
Elio Villafranca, piano & keyboards
Uri Gurvich, alto saxophone
Mauricio Herrara, percussion
Arturo Stable, percussion
Acclaimed Cuban-born drummer Francisco Mela is a favorite among jazz's elite instrumentalists, including Joe Lovano, John Scofield, JoAnne Brackeen, Kenny Barron, and McCoy Tyner, all of whom cite his charisma, sophistication, and life-affirming spirit as an extension of his incredible talents as a composer and drummer.
Francisco Mela was born in 1968 in Bayamo, Cuba. Inspired by his artistic father and the explosive sounds of Irakere, Mela immersed himself in Cuban traditional music and the jazz being played and performed in his hometown. Mela moved to Boston in 2000 to pursue a degree at the acclaimed Berklee College of Music. The faculty quickly recognized that Mela had much to offer students and promptly hired him to teach at the school.
At the end of 2001, Mela began touring around the US, Europe and Canada as a member of Jane Bunnette and Spirits of Havana, giving workshops and clinics at various universities. At the end of the tour, the group went to the studio to record Cuban Odyssey, which was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Fellow Berklee faculty member and world-renown saxophonist Joe Lovano heard Mela and was immediately impressed, hiring him soon thereafter to play in his quartet. Since 2005, Mela has been an integral part of Joe Lovano’s quartet and his new group “Us Five,” a two-drummer quintet that features Lovano and Mela with bassist Esperanza Spalding, pianist James Weidman and drummer Otis Brown III.
In 2007, Mela’s unique style and sound was noticed by piano legend Kenny Barron. Mela joined Barron’s trio in 2007, performing and touring all over the world until late 2009. In 2009, Mela was tapped by jazz legend McCoy Tyner to join his trio.
Mela’s first CD, Melao, featuring Joe Lovano, George Garzone, Anat Cohen, and Lionel Loueke, among others, was released in 2006 and called one of the best albums of the year by All About Jazz. Mela’s second release as a leader, Cirio, was recorded over a week-long period at the Blue Note for Half Note Records in 2008. The recording featured an all-star cast of Mark Turner, Jason Moran, Larry Grenadier and Lionel Loueke. Mela’s latest project, Cuban Safari, is an amalgamation of his favorite bands that inspired him to become a drummer – Miles Davis’ fusion group featuring Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett, Weather Report, and the Latin-jazz super group Irakere. In the Fall of 2011, Mela will release a studio recording, Tree of Life, on Half Note Records featuring his band Cuban Safari and guest vocalist Esperanza Spalding.
Whether it’s with Cuban Safari, his trio, quintet, or as a sideman in the groups of McCoy Tyner or Joe Lovano, the result is the same – Francisco Mela provides a passionate, thrilling display of exuberance and vivacity from the drum chair that is as pleasing to listen to as it is to watch.
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