By Suzanne Lorge | Published March 2021
Only once does drummer Francisco Mela cede control on MPT Trio Volume 1, his first album with tenorist Hery Paz and guitarist Juanma Trujillo. Otherwise, his unflappable grasp of momentum on the album’s eight tracks is a marvel, given the overwhelming impulse as a listener to collapse into the many disparate feels and moods on this record.
The release opens with “Calipso,” a free, horn-centric improvisation tinged with Afro-Caribbean joie de vivre—steel drums, dance melody and infectious polyrhythms. Extrapolating from these same sources, the group ventures into more daring, spontaneous composition on tunes like “Baldor,” an open pastiche of dramatic tones and textures, and “Vino,” with its gritty rock guitar sections and frenzied allusions to folkloric song.
Not all of the tracks rely on rhythm for their movement: The tension on the disquieting “Sustain” builds from the monotony of the droning guitar, and the tether for “Whisper” is the restless search for connection in the saxophone improvisation. Further, two of the tracks favor more traditional lines, like the ballad “Naima,” which opens with a relaxed sax solo that leads into a comfortably familiar harmonic progression, and “Suite For Leo Brouwer” (in honor of the Cuban composer), a sequence of musical assertions that wend naturally through Cuban beats, modal tonality and minimalism.
Mela closes the album with “El Llanto De La Tierra”—or “Cry Of The Earth”—arguably the freest track of the lot and the most experimental. A tempestuous brawl of unfettered blowing, electronic wailing and wood-on-wood accents, this tune voices the raw emotion that the rest of MPT Trio Volume 1 only hints at.
MPT Trio Volume 1: Calipso; Sustain; Suite For Leo Brouwer; Vino; Naima; Baldor; Whisper; El Llanto De La Tierra. (42:54)
Personnel: Francisco Mela, drums; Hery Paz, tenor saxophone; Juanma Trujillo, guitar.