Francisco Mela has that smokey sounding voice, of a raw Flamenco singer, full of passion and fire. He played with mallets and created a percussive drum and cymbal ambiance while he sang the song "Parasuayo" from the album Melao. The introduction of the saxophonist George Garzone came by way of a beautiful sounding, mellow, fluid and joyous fill. The song and the show had begun; a feeling of high energy permeated the air, a group of young people moved directly to the front of the stage, pulled in by this magnetic energy.
Davide Virelles, pianist of one hundred faces, played a rolling wave of notes that created the feeling of movement, a gravity free flight of weightlessness with runs of freedom and glory. Acoustic bassist John Benitez was in the groove and keeping a steady time of free flowing invention throughout this tripping flight of fancy. The song progressed in a free form style - played in a moderate tempo with the downbeat hidden amongst the polyrhythmic, syncopated beats that Mela so effortlessly and dynamically produces. Some of the rhythms and times are so syncopated you are moved to catch yourself from falling.
Francisco Mela (born 1968 in Bayamo Gramma, Cuba) has played the sideman with Joe Lovano and most recently with Kenny Barron. He has also played with a who’s who of musical heavy weights, names like Steve Coleman, Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, John Scofield, John Patitucci, Jason Moran, Mark Turner, Stefon Harris, Regina Carter, Lionel Loueke and Chucho Valdez. Mela has also worked with Jane Bunnett & Spirits of Havana. Mela’s debut album Melao released in 2006 on the Ayva Music Label was voted amongst the top ten by webzine, All About Jazz. Mela has been on the faculty of music at Berklee College of Music since 2002.
The second song opened with a drum introduction, a solo of magic and trickery with the hitting of bells and trinkets that encircled Mela’s neck, to throwing sticks at cymbals. Playing the cymbals from every possible angle, including from the underside, Mela created a fascinating effect and pulled the audience into his mystical mannerism. There were moments when he seemed disconnected from his body, a highly spirited drummer who plays with feel as the primary motivation.
George Garzone played a melody that was very catchy and full of passion. The rhythm sections playing was extreme, power and intensity driven by the joy of this incredible interaction. Virelles wore many of his avante faces, playing that at times was as free form as I have ever heard him play. There were moments when his left hand was producing classical sounding melodies and his right hand was picking wonderful sounding notes in accentuation to what John Benitez and Francisco Mela were playing.
The final song of the show started with Mela chanting in Spanish, Virelles joins in on piano, after about eight bars, drums, bass and saxophone enter. Davide Virelles is playing with heavy percussive chords and fully complimenting the percussive bass style of John Benitez. George Garzone is blowing hot and sounding great. All to soon the final bar is played with exacting precision; the audience erupts in applause and continues to applaud, bringing the band back to the stage, one last number to imprint the incredible and spiritual Francisco Mela to memory - as a powerhouse drummer and bandleader to look out for.
Paul J. Youngman KJA Jazz Advocate - Originally featured at The Live Music Report