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Francisco Mela: Tricky But Catchy

The drummer-composer balances tradition and invention

Francisco Mela & the Crash Trio's "Fe"

Not long after the 2011 release of his third album as a leader, Tree of Life, the Cuban-born, New York-based drummer and composer Francisco Mela asked bassist Gerald Cannon to give that disc a listen. Cannon complied. But when asked what he thought about the music, Cannon, Mela’s bandmate in the McCoy Tyner Trio, didn’t respond the way the drummer had hoped. He merely commented that it was “interesting.”

“I understood right there that it wasn’t something he really liked,” says Mela, 48. “So I told him this is the way that I write. He said to me, ‘Mela, you should write a jazz album.’ And I was like, ‘What?‘ And he said, ‘These are interesting compositions, but it’s not jazz.'”

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