Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

181

Francisco Mela & Cuban Safari: Tree Of Life

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
A safari, in essence, is all about the idea of an encounter between the tamed, usually in the form of adventure-seeking humans, and the wild, which they aim to explore. The same could be said for the music that drummer Francisco Mela creates with Cuban Safari on Tree Of Life. For his third solo outing, the Cuban-born drummer, best known for his work as part of the two drummer-and-bass team that anchors saxophonist Joe Lovano's Us Five outfit, assembled a diverse group of instrumentalists to help him flesh out his own brand of music, which blends fusion, African-leaning world music and post-modern jazz ideals in myriad ways.

On a program which favors Mela originals, yet features music from such disparate sources as pianist Jason Moran ("Retrograde") and Hoagy Carmichael ("The Nearness Of You"), the drummer achieves a rare balance between sophistication and abandon, as he delivers irrepressible rhythmic layers behind, between and around the rest of his band. He's comfortable delivering bashing, rock-based beats ("Africa En Mis Venas") and choppy, broken rhythms ("Retrograde"), but that's not all he does. Mela also thrives in tribalistic settings, as he mixes it up with percussionists Mauricio Herrera and Arturo Stable ("Fiesta Conga"), and full-on fusion assaults ("Yo Me"). He even mans the microphone on a few occasions, delivering dreamy Spanish-language vocals over a gentle bed of piano during the introduction for the album-closing "Gracias A La Vida," and English-language vocals on "The Nearness Of You."

While the back panel lists eleven different musicians on the date, and all those involved play an important part in this music when they make an appearance, some stand out more than others. Pianist Elio Villafranca shows incredible range, as he moves from spiky and delightfully disjointed soloing ("Retrograde") to placid accompanying over the course of the album, and guitarist Ben Monder delivers some other-worldly sounds, living up to his reputation as a master sonic craftsmen. Saxophonist Uri Gurvich is superb at every turn, and Jowee Omicil's scorching soprano work helps to fuel the fire on "Yo Me." Esperanza Spalding makes a guest appearance on "Yadan Mela," but she leaves the bass duties to Peter Slavov, as she delivers wordless vocals, which simply ooze soul, over an invigorating, Pan-African backdrop.

While Mela's band might be called Cuban Safari, the music they create isn't stranded on that lone expanse of land located ninety miles south of Miami. Mela's music encompasses everything that he has encountered, making the Tree Of Life a sonic safari through the worldwide wilds of jazz and beyond.

Track Listing: Retrograde; Africa En Mis Venas; Toma Del Ponder; Yadan Mela; Classico Mela; The Nearness Of You; Yo Me; Just Now; Fiesta Conga; Gracias A La Vida.

Personnel: Francisco Mela: drums, vocals; Elio Villafranca: piano; Leo Genovese: piano; Uri Gurvich: saxophone; Ben Monder: guitar; Luques Curtis: bass; Mauricio Herrera: percussion; Esperanza Spalding: vocals (4); Peter Slavov: bass; Arturo Stable: percussion; Jowee Omicil: saxophone.

Title: Tree Of Life | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Half Note Records

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Ancestros

Ancestros

Newvelle Records
2018

buy
Fe

Fe

Self Produced
2016

buy
Tree Of Life

Tree Of Life

Half Note Records
2011

buy
Cirio

Cirio

Half Note Records
2008

buy
Cirio: Live at the Blue Note

Cirio: Live at the...

Half Note Records
2008

buy
Melao

Melao

Ayva Musica
2006

buy
Date Detail Price
Jan7Mon
8:00 pm
FRANCISCO MELA & FRIENDS
Blue Note New York
New York, NY
$15.00
Jan7Mon
10:30 pm
FRANCISCO MELA'S ANCESTROS
Blue Note New York
New York, NY
$15.00

Related Articles

Read Vilddjur CD/LP/Track Review
Vilddjur
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 11, 2018
Read Lines in Sand CD/LP/Track Review
Lines in Sand
by Geno Thackara
Published: December 11, 2018
Read Like A Fire That Consumes All Before It CD/LP/Track Review
Like A Fire That Consumes All Before It
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 11, 2018
Read The Brave CD/LP/Track Review
The Brave
by Geannine Reid
Published: December 11, 2018
Read Strings 1 CD/LP/Track Review
Strings 1
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 11, 2018
Read Pillars CD/LP/Track Review
Pillars
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 10, 2018
Read "Work: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Monk" CD/LP/Track Review Work: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Monk
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 31, 2018
Read "Bay of Rainbows" CD/LP/Track Review Bay of Rainbows
by John Kelman
Published: December 1, 2018
Read "A Sky You Could Strike a Match On" CD/LP/Track Review A Sky You Could Strike a Match On
by Patrick Burnette
Published: January 15, 2018
Read "Charlie Porter" CD/LP/Track Review Charlie Porter
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: September 9, 2018
Read "Shifting Standards" CD/LP/Track Review Shifting Standards
by Paul Rauch
Published: May 14, 2018
Read "The Other Side of Time" CD/LP/Track Review The Other Side of Time
by Kevin Press
Published: January 31, 2018