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Acclaimed drummer FRANCISCO MELA was born in 1968 in Bayamo, Cuba. Inspired by his artistic father and the explosive sounds of Irakere, Mela immersed himself in Cuban traditional music and the jazz being played and performed in his hometown. Mela’s career began when he was asked to perform with Emiliano Salvador in his quartet Nueva Vision.
Mela moved to Boston in 2000 to pursue a degree at the Berklee College of Music. The faculty recognized that Mela had much to offer students and promptly hired him to teach at the school. Fellow Berklee faculty member and world-renowned saxophonist Joe Lovano heard Mela and was immediately impressed, hiring him soon thereafter to play in his quartet. Since 2005, Mela has been an integral part of Joe Lovano’s quartet and his new group Us Five, a two-drummer quintet that features Lovano and Mela with bassist Esperanza Spalding, pianist James Weidman, and drummer Otis Brown III.
In 2007, Mela’s unique style and sound was noticed by piano legend Kenny Barron. Mela joined Barron’s trio in 2007, performing and touring all over the world until late 2009. In 2009, Mela was tapped by jazz legend McCoy Tyner to join his trio.
Mela’s first CD, Melao, was released in 2006 and called one of the best albums of the year by All About Jazz. Mela’s second release as a leader, Cirio, was recorded over a week-long period at the Blue Note for Half Note Records in 2008. The tracks on the recording were inspired by Mela’s family, including his father Cirio, whose image (drawn by then pre-teen Francisco) graces the cover, and Urick, Mela’s newborn son.
Mela celebrated the debut of his new group, Cuban Safari, at the Jazz Standard in June.