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Album Review

Francisco Mela: Music Frees Our Souls Vol. 2


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Francisco Mela: Music Frees Our Souls Vol. 2
The three protagonists gaze out from the cover, variously smiling, appearing wryly amused, and looking stern. The image suggests a will to tackle things head on, without artifice or adornment. To tell it like it is. And that is the result: a thrilling no-nonsense representation of the combined artistry of drummer Francisco Mela, pianist Cooper-Moore and bassist William Parker.

Though billed as Volume 2 of Music Frees Our Souls it isn't more from the same session. In fact, Volume 1 featured a different grouping, with Matthew Shipp on the piano stool. Rather than personnel, the continuity stems from the album's place in a projected three-part series dedicated to Mela's erstwhile employer McCoy Tyner.

Of course Cooper-Moore sounds nothing like Tyner (nor does Shipp for that matter), but Mela's intent was to celebrate Tyner's encouragement for him to explore the boundaries of both his personal expression and his musical ability. Increasingly that has led him into uncharted terrains, exemplified by the two densely woven 20-minute plus improvs that make up this installment. In spite of his elder statesman status, the pianist's discography numbers less than it ought, so his appearance here is something to be savored.

Cooper-Moore could undoubtedly hold interest without any support whatsoever. Typically he conjures substance from the ether, extemporizing figures and melodies which he develops and repeats, which serve as structural markers to which he returns after ever more wayward digressions.

His habit of cycling through such patterns perhaps provides a clue to his affinity with Parker, in whose In Order To Survive outfit he's been a fixture since the early '90s, as the bassist similarly shifts between sequences of rhythmic motifs to fashion a freely swinging yet rock-solid pulsation, albeit one which orbits on a more compressed timescale. Mela on the other hand uses his trap set to create a multi-layered approach, in which different parts move at different speeds, achieving propulsion without crowding.

Both pieces begin with Cooper-Moore establishing the parameters: blocky repetitions in both the bass and treble registers on "Musical Literacy," churchy chords on the ballad form "Mental Scenario." Despite the noise of an unwanted incursion into the studio at the start of the latter, he determinedly pursues his train of thought, an exquisite line cosseted by Parker's arco, before sparkling divergences and glinting accelerations ensue. As the cut ends in a kaleidoscopic swirl of sticks, keys and bow, it is a riveting reminder of the power of improvised music.

Track Listing

Musical Literacy; Mental Scenario.


Francisco Mela: drums; Cooper-Moore: piano; William Parker: bass.

Album information

Title: Music Frees Our Souls Vol. 2 | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: 577 Records

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