It's no secret that for most of the 20th Century, Cuban music and musicians played important roles in influencing and revitalizing North American popular culture. From Ernesto Lecuona and Desi Arnaz to Chano Pozo, Paquito D'Rivera and Gloria Estefan, a wide stylistic panorama, from classical to pop and jazz idioms, has been constantly invigorated by the presence of supremely talented Cuban musicians and their distinctive music traditions.
Today, the name of drummer and composer Francisco Mela can be added to this illustrious list. He's been in the U.S. for the than two decades, Mela has become one of the most talked about and in-demand Cuban musicians of his generation. "Melao," his debut album for the Barcelona, Spain-based AYVA Musica label, features a cadre of jazz giants, among them tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, who quickly became one of the drummers biggest fans.
Born in 1968 in...