Mora! I & II, Holy Grails of Latin Jazz Get Released on Vinyl

Far Out Recordings is delighted to present Mora I, and for the first time ever on vinyl 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 with an expanded Detroit jazz brass section 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.

Born in Washington DC, 1947, Francisco Mora Jr is the eldest child of two highly prominent Mexican artists, Francisco Mora Sr and Elizabeth Catlett, to whom this project was dedicated. Being born into a mixed heritage bohemian family provided Mora Jr with what he called a “creative, progressive, and healthy arts environment”, building the foundations for a fascinating career journey ahead. 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. Once he’d completed his studies in 1973, 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 the world for the next seven years, a decent innings within a group famous for its constantly evolving line up.

Settling in Detroit after his years with the Arkestra, Francisco set to work on his self-titled debut, gathering an ensemble of musicians that included keyboardist Kenny Cox, founder of the legendary Strata Records, esteemed bassist Rodney Whitaker of the 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.” Epitomising 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, Hank Crawford, Eddie Russ and Wendell Harrison. 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, but only now has it been given the high quality vinyl treatment it so deserves, presented as the sequel to Mora! as originally intended.

Through the 90s and into the the 21st century Mora would continue his Pan-American explorations, moving toward a more electronic afro-futurist direction as part of Detroit techno pioneer Carl Craig’s Innerzone Orchestra. Mora also worked with Carl Craig, moog synth wizard Craig Taborn, and his former Arkestra colleague, the legendary Marshall Allen, to form the Innerzone Orchestra spin-off Outerzone, released in 2007 on Premier Cru Records. Mora I & II will be out as two vinyl LPs, CD and digitally 16th April 2021.

Tracklist & Credits [CD / Digital]

MORA I
1 Prelude Welcome
2 Afra Jum
3 Rumba Morena
4 Five Am
5 Samba De Amor
6 Cultural Warrior
7 Epilogue Conga Hasta La Vista

MORA II
8 Afra Jum
9 Amazona Prelude / Dawn
10 Amazona
11 Samba / Conga Do Amor
12 El Moro
13 Old Man Joe
14 Por Que Paro
15 Afra Jum

Vinyl LP – Mora! I

Side A
1 Prelude “Welcome”
2 Afra Jum
3 Rumba Morena
4 Five A.M.

Side B
1 Samba De Amor
2 Cultural Warrior
3 Epilogue – Conga “Hasta La Vista”

Vinyl LP – Mora! II

Side A
1 Afra Jum
2 Amazona
3 Amazona Prelude / Dawn
4 Samba Conga Do Amor

Side B
1 Por Que Paro
2 Afra Jum
3 Old Man Joe
4 El Morro

All tunes composed and arranged by:
Francisco Mora, Jr.

Personnel
Francisco Mora: Drums and Percussion
Emile Borde: Steel Drums and Percussion
Vincent Bowens: Soprano/Tenor Saxophones & Flute
Ken Cox: Piano
Jerome Le Duff: Berimbau and Percussion
Teresa Mora: Vocal and Percussion
Alberto Nacif: Quinto, Congas and Percussion
Rodney Whitaker: Contrabass

Additional Musicians on Mora II:

Sherman Mitchell: Trombone
Marcus Belgrave – Trumpet
John Douglass – Trumpet and Flugel Horn
Alex Harding – Baritone Sax and Bass Clarinet

‘Amazona Prelude’ String Quartet:

Michele May – 1st Violin
Pat Moore – 2nd Violin
Nina White – Viola
Tanya Bennett – Cello

Produced by: Francisco Mora
Recorded at: Studio A, Dearborn Heights, Michigan
Engineer: John Jaszcz
Mixed: John Jaszcz and Francisco Mora
Cover Design, Logo and Photograph by: Mary Luevanos
Additional Design by Alessandro Renaldin
Licensed from Premier Cru Music

released April 16, 2021

Danilo Navas
Founder, Editor, Webmaster: Latin Jazz Network, World Music Report, Toronto Music Report. A passionate and committed communicator with a sensibility for the arts based in Toronto, Canada.

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