The multi-talented Afro-Latin American drummer, composer, bandleader, visionary Francisco Mora Catlett is no stranger to the art of reinvention. He’s ridden the spaceways with Sun Ra’s Arkestra (1973 to 1980), performed with Max Roach’s all-percussion ensemble, M’Boom, collaborated with the Detroit techno producer, Craig Taborn, toured with the Freedom Jazz Trio, and commandeered the groundbreaking group, AfroHorn.
Recently, amid the pandemic, Francisco took another step in his musical evolution. Not long ago, I received an email from Francisco, declaring, “Different, uh? But Miles went Electric, and Sun Ra was In electronic music way before 1958. I’m back in college at my Alma Mater, Berklee College in Boston, taking an online Composing and Producing Electronic Music.” Also, an advance copy of the soon-to-be-released Electric Worlds (AACE Records) which I’ve been “decoding” and listening to nonstop.
Interestingly, but not surprising, it was Sun Ra, widely considered the father of Afrofuturism and player and inventor of modified electronic instruments such as the sun harp, the space organ, and the cosmic drum who encouraged Francisco to explore the art of electronica.
Electric Worlds follows the thread that goes through all of Francisco’s music. It is African music and a continuation of his mother, the Afro-Mexican sculptor, and printmaker, Elizabeth Catlett’s (1915-2012) legacy. “Electric Worlds is Futuristic Black Music,” says Francisco. “Indeed it is ahead of its time, but if you listen, you will also hear the most ancient African rhythms in a new form. They have been preserved and are an inseparable part of the Continuum.”
My experience with Catlett’s music began with the groundbreaking collective, AfroHorn, and the 2 CD-set, AfroHorn MX (AACE Records, 2012). Which led me to the writings of Henry Dumas (1934-1968) and the short-story, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, which is essential to understanding AfroHorn’s concept and sound. Afterward, I discovered the albums Mora!, World Trade Music, Outerzone, River Run, and the Freedom Jazz Trio among others.
To be sure, Electric Worlds is a different medium for Catlett. But, at the end of the day, it’s about artistic freedom. “Music is about freedom, that’s what it proposes, that’s why it’s so popular and that’s why people love it,” said Francisco when I spoke to him in 2013. “And it’s not freedom that comes without discipline. Having had the great fortune to work with giants like Sun Ra and Max Roach taught me that cultural continuity, vision, and perseverance, are essential to maintain the expressivity of an Artistic form.”
Electric Worlds marks another step in the evolution of Francisco Mora Catlett. Also, it completes a circle. Why do I get the feeling Sun Ra would not be surprised?
Tracks: Jazzy Jit, Boom MX, C2 (313), Camina D&B, Electric Worlds, Fire and Water, Habana, Open Window into Outerspace, SE-02 NYC, Mahalia y su Papa NYC, Tenere Sahara, Ye Ye Olude. All titles composed, arranged, recorded, mixed, and produced by Francisco Mora Catlett.
- Mora! (1986)
- Outerzone (2007)
- Freedom Jazz Trio – New Under the Sun (2009)
- AfroHorn MX (2012)
- Echo Tree – The Collected Short Fiction of Henry Dumas (Coffee House Press,
- Swed, John – Space is the Place – The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (Pantheon, 2012, 2020)
- Electric Worlds Front and Back Cover – Artwork by Nia Mora
- Sun Ra, Henry Dumas (photographer unknown)
Artist Website: http://franciscomoracatlett.com