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ARTIST
TITLE
Mora! I
FORMAT
LP

LABEL
CATALOG #
FARO 222LP FARO 222LP
GENRE
RELEASE DATE
4/30/2021

LP version. First of two LPs. Far Out Recordings present Mora! and Mora! II. Mexican-American percussionist and former member of the Sun Ra Arkestra, Francisco Mora Catlett originally recorded and released his debut solo LP as a private press in 1987, but the sequel he recorded over the course of the next few years was shelved for decades to follow. A pan-American melting pot of hypnotic Afro-Cuban rhythms, frenetic batucadas, and fiery sambas, Mora! I & II are holy grails of Latin jazz, masterminded by an unsung hero of the genre. Mora grew up in Mexico City where he began working as a session musician for Capitol Records in 1968, before moving to study at Berklee Music College in Boston, MA in 1970. He very briefly returned to Mexico City with the best intentions of cultivating an avant-garde movement in the city, but when the Sun Ra Arkestra came to perform, Mora ended up leaving with the band to tour. Settling in Detroit, Francisco set to work on his self-titled debut, gathering an ensemble of musicians including keyboardist Kenny Cox, founder of the legendary Strata Records, bassist Rodney Whitaker (Roy Hargrove Quintet) and percussionists Jerome Le Duff, Alberto Nacif, and Emile Borde. The album openly embraces and unites the broad spectrum of improvisation, rhythm, and jazz that has thrived throughout the American continents for centuries. In Mora's own words the album intended to "manifest the African heritage presence in the American continent." Epitomizing this outlook, album opener "Afra Jum" deploys a melody based on Haitian, African, and Native American motifs, which is expanded upon by the soulful excellence of the Detroit veterans Cox and Whitaker, amidst a backdrop of Afro-Cuban inspired percussion. The sequel Mora! II was recorded shortly after with an expanded line-up that included trumpet legend Marcus Belgrave, famed for his work with Ray Charles, Charles Mingus, and others. Continuing the concept of the first album, the follow up moves deeper into South America with the samba jazz dance belter "Amazona", led by the rich vocals of Francisco's wife Teresa Mora. The "Afra Jum" concept is further explored, with the original motifs beefed up by the additional horns, and interspersions of Sun Ra inspired rumbling free improvisations. This follow up album remained shelved until 2005, when Mora put it out as a now obscure CD titled River Drum.