Serious tunes, serious players, serious music. Francisco Mela's debut as a bandleader is a serious asset to the modern jazz community. A veteran of the Havana scene gone East Coaster, living in Boston and New York and teaching at the revered Berklee School of Music, Mela has a treasure chest of musical experiences to draw from. That fact is clear upon first listen to his disc, Melao. The vocal passages, like rumberos of old reaching through time, are the most authentic to appear on a jazz record, rich and haunting. Simultaneously, modern jazz odd time signatures never felt so natural or so raw. Compositions that would sound hectic or cluttered in the hands of another player are warm, living, and vibrant in Mela's and his band of innovators and veterans. A mix of genre heros and young lions include jazz greats Joe Lovano and George Garzone alongside next generation players Leo Genovese, Peter Slavov, and Nir Felder, to name a few. Along the lines of Jack DeJohnette's Oneness, the timbre of the record is all organic and dark, featuring both ultra-raw acoustic performances and electronic atmospheric noise. For a record with such heavy musicians, there is no over-playing. Each composition reaches perfect balance. Though probably not a project that will find wide-range appeal, Melao is a bold statement from an artist with a truly unique, appealing voice.
AllMusic Review by Evan C. Gutierrez