Francisco Mela

Associate Professor
Affiliated Departments
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Francisco Mela is a favorite among jazz's elite instrumentalists, including such luminaries as Joe Lovano, McCoy Tyner, John Scofield, Ingrid Laubrock, and Esperanza Spalding, among many others, all of whom cite his charisma, sophistication, and life-arming spirit as an extension of his incredible talents as a composer and drummer.

Born in 1968 in Bayamo, Cuba, Mela moved to Boston in 2000 and quickly thereafter made a name for himself on the Boston scene, becoming the house drummer at the legendary Wally’s Café Jazz Club. It was at Wally’s that Mela began developing a concept for his own band, one that would feature the sounds of modern jazz with the traditional music he grew up with in Cuba. World-renowned saxophonist Joe Lovano heard Mela and was immediately impressed, hiring him shortly after to play in his quartet. Since 2005, Mela has been an integral part of Lovano’s quartet and his new group, Us Five, a two-drummer quintet. Their 2009 Blue Note Records recording, titled Folk Art, was considered by many critics to be Lovano’s most adventurous to date. In 2009, he was tapped by jazz legend McCoy Tyner to join his trio. Said Tyner of his new drummer, “Mela is just a fantastic player. He has his own style and his own sound, which is what I look for in a drummer.”

Career Highlights
  • Leader of Francisco Mela and the Crash Trio, and Cuban Safari 
  • Sideman for Kenny Barron Trio, Joe Lovano Us Five, Esperanza Spalding Trio, John Scofield Trio, Chucho Valdes and Joe Lovano quintet, Quincy Jones All Star, Gary Bartz quartet, and McCoy Tyner Trio
  • Recordings as a leader include Melao (2005), Cirio (2006), Tree of Life with the Cuban Safari (2008), Fe (2015), and Ancestros (2017)
  • Drummer of the McCoy Tyner Trio  
  • Artistic director of the Xalapa Jazz Festival
  • Artistic director of the Twin Cities Jazz Festival
  • Grammy nominee
  • Grammy 2022 Best Jazz Vocal Album, Songwrights Apothecary Lab, Esperanza Spalding
  • M.M., Cuban National  Institution of Music, CENCEA, Afro-Cuban music
In Their Own Words

"I want my students to learn the fundamental bases of music in general in order to become a master in what they play."

"The experience that I have had as the formal drummer of musicians like McCoy Tyner, Kenny Barron, Quincy Jones, Willian Parker, Joe Lovano, Chucho Valdes, and John Scofield, among others, allows me to teach with more deep knowledge, and students love that."