Francisco Mora Catlett, “Mora!”
By Andy Beta · April 27, 2021 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), 2 x Vinyl LP

There’s a telling part of Francisco Mora Catlett’s long biography, where the Washington, D.C. percussionist was working in Mexico City as a house drummer for Capitol Records in the late ’60s. He detoured to study at Berklee, then returned to Mexico City with plans to establish an avant-garde scene there, only to be swept up by Sun Ra’s Arkestra, with whom he toured and played until 1980, when he settled in Detroit. Which is to say that Mora moves wherever his powerful muse leads him, be it to outer space or the heady realms of Carl Craig’s epochal “Bug in the Bass Bin” single.

Far Out’s much-needed reissue of Mora! pairs his 1986 debut as a leader with another strong session recorded soon after, leading some of the Motor City’s finest players through a whirlwind of rhythms. Take “Samba De Amor,” which opens with a dreamy duet between voice and berimbau, before Mora guides to a burst of kaleidoscopic color, like a hushed alley opening onto a street parade. “Samba ‘Conga Do Amor’” lurches from free jazz skronk to raucous celebration, marching band drums abutting Brazilian hand percussion and Caribbean steel pan drum.

Mora leads from the rear like other great drummers and bandleaders—Max Roach, Idris Muhammad, Buddy Rich—but rather than showcase chops, his intent throughout is to show how African rhythms have infiltrated “New World” forms, be it Brazilian, Haitian, Caribbean, or American music. It’s all captured on the sprawling “Afru Jam,” which expertly weaves African thumb piano, crackling Motor City jazz, Latin rhythms, and more into a sumptuous whole, Mora catching a world of sound in a big embrace.

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