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Francisco Mela: Cirio

Martin Longley By

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Subtitled "Live At The Blue Note," this hour-long set was recorded in September of 2007, drummer Francisco Mela surrounded by players with profiles much higher than his own. This is some statement, regarding the New York-based Cuban's skills. Mark Turner (tenor sax), Lionel Loueke (guitar), Jason Moran (piano) and Larry Grenadier (bass) are all allowed ample soloing time within Mela's highly organic compositions. Even though abstraction is a dominant force, the core nature of this music is mainstream. Mela can sometimes play wilder than this, but operates here on a level plain.

The album is named after Mela's father Cirio and it was recorded not long after his demise. Almost inevitably, its emphasis gravitates towards family matters, with dedications to Maria (Francisco's mother) and Urick (his newborn son). In their Cuban home town of Bayamo, Cirio introduced Francisco to art and music and this fatherly influence has been crucial to the younger Mela's creative development.

On the opening "Tierra And Fuego," Loueke's guitar seems to adopt the role of synth keyboard, while Moran provides the acoustic muscle. On "Channel 2," Turner floats unanchored, while Mela and Grenadier drive in linear fashion. An impressionistic swirling takes over the title track's fragmented structure, and solo demarcations are often unclear, as when Moran leaves a permanent stain on the musical fabric.

Often, entire pieces act as a vehicle for a particular player's extended statement. Mela sings on a couple of tunes—his own "Urick Mela" and a song by fellow Cuban, Silvio Rodriguez. The former and "Benes," by Loueke, are the only non-Mela numbers on the album, the latter understandably dominated by guitar work. The disc is at once solid in its craftsmanship and dispersed in its character, but might be viewed as being too free form by those who usually follow its participants.

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.

Title: Cirio | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Half Note Records

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