Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Francisco Mela & Cuban Safari: Tree of Life

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Francisco Mela and his Cuban Safari take us on a journey from progressive postbop to fusion, Afro-Cuban and beyond. The drummer’s third album as a leader features a solid core group with guest appearances enhancing his diverse compositions and interpretations and a timeless Chilean folk tune.

Jason Moran’s kinetic “Retrograde” opens with Mela’s characteristically propulsive, imaginative rhythms, the lithe saxophone of Uri Gurvich and an incisive piano solo by Elio Villafranca. The shape-shifting “Africa en mis Venas” rocks out at first, Mela’s explosive inflections driving Gurvich’s jagged first theme; guitarist Ben Monder transitions into postbop enhanced by the drummer’s sturdy swing, and Villafranca offers an intricate unaccompanied solo before Gurvich returns, bringing the tune full circle. Esperanza Spalding, Mela’s collaborator in Joe Lovano’s Us Five, appears on the world-music-tinged “Yadan Mela” with free-flowing wordless vocals, Peter Slavov holding it down on bass. “Yo Me” is a funky foray into electric jazz featuring co-composer Jowee Omicil on soprano sax.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published