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Cirio is evidence that Francisco Mela marches and plays to the beat of a different drummer. Combining artistic influences of his Cuban upbringing with modern jazz, the youthful Boston based drummer/composer has studied at Berkley, toured with pianist Kenny Barron and performed with saxophonist Jane Bunnett's Grammy nominated "Spirits of Havana Band."
Yet it's his voice that pierces this live recording at New York's Blue Note as he is joined by seminal rising stars Lionel Loueke, Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier and Jason Moran; one that was first witnessed on his auspicious debut, Melao (Ayva Musica, 2006).
Using percussion-like rhythms that are beyond standard traps, Mela blends multi-directional tempos with power and finesse. His leadership neither overshadows nor is overshadowed by his peers, in particular Moran, who acquiesces his usual pyrotechnics, allowing the others to shine on the opening track "Tierra And Fuego," denoted by Mela's driven timing and Loueke's electronically processed guitar.
The trio setting in "Channel 2" is where things get interestinga freeform piece marked by Grenadier's pulsating bass, brilliant methodical free soloing by Turner and Mela's effervescent playing. Next is the title song, dedicated to Mela's father, Cirio. An audible portrait that is introspective, progressive and magnetic; also personalized on the recording's cover art, which Mela painted when he was a pre-teen.
Within the well rounded set, "Maria" shows a softer side of Mela's writing/performing and highlights Moran's distinct piano chops. Mela's alluring Cuban vocals on Silvio Rodriguez's "Pequena Serenata de Urna" and Loueke's popular "Benes," (also known as "Benny's Tune" on various recordings) enhances the recording.
Cirio honors Mela's father, who died shortly after the project began, and celebrates his firstborn child in the affecting "Urick Mela." From the opening track to the closing force of "Afro Son," it is captivating, atmospheric and spirited.
Track Listing: Tierra And Fuego; Channel 2; Cirio; Maria; Pequena Serenata de Urna; Benes; Urick Mela; Afro Son.
Personnel: Francisco Mela: drums, vocals; Jason Moran: piano; Lionel Loueke: guitar; Larry Grenadier: bass; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone.