In titling this album Melaza ("molasses" in Spanish), tenor and soprano saxophonist David Sánchez makes reference to the sugarcane fields of his native Puerto Rico. Noting that inhumane labor conditions produced an ironically sweet-tasting product, Sánchez sets a political tone, which he makes more explicit by dedicating the disc to "the African extension, the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the community of Vieques for its years of struggle for peace." In keeping with this serious message, the music on the album, which draws deeply from Puerto Rican rhythms, possesses an extraordinary urgency. Co-produced by Sánchez and Branford Marsalis (who plays tenor on Sánchez's epic "Canción del Cañaveral"), Melaza is powered by Sánchez's working band: Miguel Zenón on alto, Edsel Gomez on piano, Hans Glawischnig on bass, Antonio Sánchez on drums, and Pernell Saturnino on percussion. Adam Cruz plays drums on three tracks; Hector "Tito" Matos and William Cepeda appear as guest percussionists.
Five of the eight tracks are Sánchez originals; these include the hard-hitting opener "Puerto San Juan," the majestic "Canto a Loíza," the manic "Centinela," and the sly, swinging "Against Our Will." Sánchez's tenor solos have never sounded more intense, and his band, sharpened by months of live performances, is one of the best. Bassist Glawischnig contributes the lively and labyrinthine "Orbitando," which features Sánchez on soprano and a monster percussion solo by Saturnino. Zenón's "El Ogro" is another fiery track, and Milton Nascimento's "Veja Esta Cançáo" closes the album on a romantic note, with Sánchez and Gomez reaching lyrical heights.