Saint Paul, Minn., October 15, 2014 — Twin Cities Jazz Festival Executive Director Steve Heckler announced the appointment of the event’s first Artistic Director, Francisco Mela. Heckler made the announcement at a fund-raising event at the Dakota Jazz Club on September 29 that featured drummer Mela leading a jazz quartet. Heckler also announced the jazz festival will receive a $125,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to support the 2015 and 2016 festivals.
The Twin Cities Jazz Festival will celebrate its 17th year in 2015 (June 25-27). With a mission of keeping the art form of jazz alive and well, this free public festival is held in and around Mears Park in the historic Lowertown Arts District of downtown Saint Paul. The addition of an Artistic Director, and particularly Mela –one of modern jazz’s most exciting artists–will help enhance and expand the line-up of internationally renowned and locally esteemed musicians representing the diversity of jazz in the 21st century. “We’re so fortunate to have an artist of Francisco’s talent and vision heading our efforts to bring the very best jazz to the Twin Cities,” said Heckler. “Mr. Mela is already familiar with our festival, having performed here recently with Joe Lovano, Melissa Aldana and his own Cuban Safari. And the Twin Cities jazz audience is already familiar with Francisco’s talent and energy. We’re really excited about the possibilities for 2015!”
A native of Bayamo, Cuba, Francisco Mela moved to Boston in 2000 to study at the famed Berklee College of Music. He was tapped by award-winning saxophonist Joe Lovano for his Us Five ensemble in 2005, and joined legendary pianist McCoy Tyner’s Trio in 2009. Dubbed “one of the most important Cuban drummers in jazz” by Jazz Times Magazine, he tours with David Sanchez, John Scofield, Kenny Barron and Melissa Aldana in addition to Lovano and Tyner. He’s also worked with Joanne Brackeen, Jane Bunnett’s Spirits of Havana and Paquito D’Rivera. Mela has appeared in the Twin Cities a number of times in recent years, including at the Dakota Jazz Club and Hopkins Center for the Arts with Joe Lovano’s Us Five, and at the Twin Cities Jazz Festival with Us Five, his own Cuban Safari, and in 2014 with Melissa Aldana’s Crash Trio. He’s released four acclaimed albums as leader, including two with Cuban Safari, and appears on each of three albums by Us Five and the recent debut recording of Crash Trio. In addition to his new appointment with the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Mela has served as Artistic Director for the Festival JAZZVU in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico (2010-13) and is newly appointed as the Artistic Director for the Jazz Festival at Tom Jazz Club in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
One of the largest civic events in the Midwest, the annual Twin Cities Jazz Festival promises the 2015 event will be the biggest and most exciting gathering of jazz artists and jazz fans ever assembled in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area. Taking place June 25-27 on multiple outdoor stages and indoor clubs, the festival expects to draw over 30,000 people of all ages to experience the joy of jazz. The Twin Cities Jazz Festival is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization supported by public and private funding.