Tuesday, September 4, 2007


This is an excerpt from the interview with Francisco Mela that appears in Jazz Imporov Magazine, Volume 5, No. 1

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Interview by Eric Nemeyer

JI: What were your initial inspirations for pursuing drums as your primary outlet for expression?

FM: First of all, because I love rhythms and also because in my home town, Bayamo, which is a city full of culture and art. It is a city full of life, and traditional Cuban music. The rhythms are in the air. It will be impossible as a Cuban not to play percussion. Percussion is part of our culture. Something that really made me decide to take percussion, and the drum set as my outlet for expression, was when I went to a concert in my home town and I saw Osmani Sanchez, one of the most important Cuban drummers. His playing really inspired me. At that moment I wanted to be like him and the drum set became an extension of my life.

JI: What kinds of challenges did you experience in Cuba during your musical development?

FM: The biggest challenge was living in Cuba around all those talents, and great percussionists, and trying to be a professional musician, and create your own voice, your own sound as a drummer. Today, my biggest challenge is not only playing with Joe Lovano and Kenny Barron—the challenge is to keep a musical dialogue and be open to follow their deep melodies.

JI: Discuss the kinds of encouragement you received from teachers and contemporaries?

FM: The passion of music has been always in my heart. The most important thing that I received from my teachers was the inspiration—the focus in my career and being always open to learn.

JI: Could you talk about your association with the pianist Chucho Valdez?

FM: Chucho Valdez inspired me as a musician for his contribution to the Cuban music. He is one of the first Cuban musicians in creating the Latin jazz movement whose work I always followed. I had the opportunity to record an album with Gabriel Hernandez, one of the youngest piano players in Cuba. Chucho was part of the project, and producer. Chucho Valdez is the “key to open the doors” for so many young Cuban musicians, like me.

JI: Talk about Jane Bunnett with whom you recorded Cuban Odyssey and talk about the cultural connection that was made between Jane, who is Canadian and the Cuban culture?

FM: I had the privilege to be part of Jane Bunnett’s band, Spirits of Havana, for four years. I recorded the Grammy nominated album, Cuban Odyssey. Jane influenced my writing, combining the folklore Cuban music with free jazz and jazz. I had so many good experiences playing with Jane. The connection with Jane is that she loves Cuban music and I love jazz.

JI: Share with us the development oft your new album release Melao with Joe Lovano, George Garzone, Lionel Loueke, Anat Cohen, Peter Slavov, Leo Genovese and Nir Felder?

FM: I always have the passion to have my own band. In the past, I have two bands called Melason, and Melamonk. Since I started to play with Joe Lovano, he asked me to start writing my own music. Danilo Perez game me a little keyboard which helped me compose to create this project. Since I moved to Boston, I have been playing in different projects with them. The connection is always there. Therefore, I put this band together having Joe Lovano as a special guest. That’s how my CD came out, Melao... my real band!

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