Since departing Cuba to study at Berklee in 2000, drummer Francisco Mela
has been on a meteoric trajectory throughout the jazz dominion. In 2005 he joined the Joe Lovano
Quartet, and in 2009 the McCoy Tyner
Trio, all the while releasing three critically acclaimed albums as leader. Fe
is his first venture with The Crash Trio, a dynamic showcase of poly-rhythmic drumming and propulsive modernism.
Fe translates into faith, and this is Mela's homage to his late parents, and a tribute to jazz mentors and influences. Executed with a sizzling sidewinding style, Mela's drumming is expressive and rudimentary perfect, laying down an expansive palette, while not crowding his fellow accompanists. Pianist Leo Genovese
displays an intense comping technique on "Ancestors," with shades of abstract player Don Pullen
in his fierce attack on the keys. "Alden Dear," is a swinging straight ahead number with clear and bright cymbal work by Mela, playing with a light touch.
There is an obvious nod to McCoy Tyner in "Don McCoy," with Genovese intentionally softening his approach into a more melodic direction, yet soloing with determination. The title track features guitarist John Scofield
, who augments the band with his impeccable taste and technique. This song is mostly Scofield stretching out, with some sparse drum accenting by Mela. The romantic ballad "Romeo & Julieta," highlights the bass patterns of Gerald Cannon
, who lifts the piano along the pleasant rendezvous.
There is a circular effect evident on "Reflections," as the trio goes into a rotated pattern, while maintaining the forward direction of the arrangement. This abstraction continues with "Curcuros," which leans into the free jazz realm, emphasized by the bowing bass undercurrent. "Lovano's Mood," is of course dedicated to tenor man Joe Lovano, the first major artist who noticed Mela's singular talent. Scofield encores on "Just Now," a hard bop orientation, where he shows why he is one of the best guitarists in jazz. After Scofield defines the groove, Genovese goes into a rapid improvisation, then Cannon brings down the heat with his bass solo, before Scofield wraps it up. Excellent quartet configuration and performance on this tune. The final track, "Open Dance," has a Caribbean inclination, and travels lightly over a calypso cadence spiced with swing, for a breezy presentation.
Many jazz aficionados are under the impression that Cuban drummers are all inherently inclined to play Afro-Cuban or Latin Jazz, as they have certainly established themselves in those genres. But this is not the case, Francisco Mela is a prime example of a native Cuban who has mastered the intricacies of jazz, in its many varieties and models, and feels comfortable in that role. This Crash Trio production pushes contemporary jazz further into the future, and showcases Mela's development and musical growth as an artist, with more, assuredly to follow.