“One of the most versatile percussionists in jazz and Afro-Latin music, as well as an original composer.” – All About Jazz
Born in Washington, D. C. and raised in Mexico City, Francisco Mora Catlett’s father is the Mexican painter Francisco Mora; his mother is the renowned African-American sculptress, Elizabeth Catlett.
In a distinguished career that spans roughly fifty years, Francisco Mora Catlett has carved a unique path and marched to the beat of his drum.
Francisco began as a session musician for Capitol Records Mexican Division. In 1970, he was awarded to attend the Berklee College of Music, where he studied composition and drum set with Alan Dawson at the Center for Afro-American Artists Elma Lewis School, and African percussion with the iconic Nigerian drummer, Babatunde Olatunji.
From 1973 to 1980 Francisco traveled the spaceways as a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra. Also, it was Sun Ra who introduced him to the African-American poet and writer, Henry Dumas. In the 1960s, Dumas was stimulated by conversations taking place around blackness within the Harlem-based Black Arts Movement. Although he was influenced by artistic figures including Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez, Dumas was particularly inspired by Sun Ra. At its heart, the movement was about reclaiming blackness; about wresting it from the margins and placing it front-and-center. No apologies. No qualifications.
Inspired by Dumas’s writings and the short-story, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”, which tells the story of three mythical Afro Horns, Francisco assembled the first incarnation of Afro Horn in Detroit in the early 1980’s.
In 1987, Franciso recorded the concept album, “Mora!” Which was described as a “Pan American time space tour, beginning with the call of Welcome to the Forest Primeval and concluding with the carnival festivities of Hasta La Vista (Congo).”
The same year, he earned a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to study with the legendary drummer, composer, and bandleader Max Roach. The encounter led to several recordings with Roach’s all-percussion ensemble, “M’Boom.”
In 1992 Francisco accepted a position as a Visiting Minority Professor in the School of Music at Michigan State University where for a decade he taught percussion that derives from the concepts and traditions of the African presence in the Americas.
In 1996, Francisco participated in two groundbreaking jazz/electronica fusion projects with techno producer, Carl Craig – BUGS IN THE BASS BIN AND OUTERZONE. In 1999, he released the highly acclaimed WORLD TRADE MUSIC.
In 2002, Francisco co-founded the OYU ORO AFRO-CUBAN DANCE ENSEMBLE with his wife, the Cuban dancer, and choreographer Danys Perez Prades La Mora.
The albums, FREEDOM JAZZ TRIO: NEW UNDER THE SUN and LIVE AT THE BRONX MUSEUM highlight Francisco’s work as a percussionist and composer.
AfroHorn’s musical odyssey began with the groundbreaking AFRO HORN MX (2012) and powerful follow-ups, RARE METAL (2013) and AT THE EDGE OF THE SPIRAL (2016).
AfroHorn’s music stands on its own. It transcends genres, flies in the face of convention and defies description. Critics describe it as “a sacred rite,” and “a musical metaphor for the middle passage” but in the end it is, “African music, not African-inspired, not African-derived, not African-influenced, it is African.”
Francisco Mora Catlett’s uncompromising spirit and vision symbolize what it means to be an uncompromising and visionary artist in today’s day and age.
Mora! (AACE, 1986)
To the Max (with M’Boom) 1990
Live at S.O.B.’s New York (with M’Boom)
World Trade Music (Community Projects, 1999)
Amazona (Kindred Spirits, 200$0
OuterZone (Premier Cru, 2007)
Baba Lu Aye (Rezo): Aberiku to Agua (Single/Vinyl, 2009)
Freedom Jazz Trio – Under the Sun (Taiko Drum Music, 2009)
AfroHorn MX (AACE, 2012)
AfroHorn, Rare Metal (AACE, 2013)
AfroHorn, At the Edge of the Spiral (AACE, 2016)
Featured Photo: chumanceralatinjazz.blogspot.com