Latin Jazz - Released March 16, 2015 | world village

Hi-Res Booklet

Latin Jazz - Released March 17, 2011 | world village

In various interviews, salsa/Latin jazz master Ray Barretto has complained about hard bop artists who employ Afro-Cuban rhythms in a very obvious way -- artists who will take a familiar Thelonious Monk, Clifford Brown, or Bud Powell standard and "Latinize" it by adding a son, cha cha, mambo, danzon, or guaguancó groove. There is nothing wrong with that approach (which can be quite enjoyable), but there is also something to be said for using Afro-Cuban/salsa elements in a less obvious fashion -- which is what Omar Sosa does on Mulatos. This post-bop release doesn't beat listeners over the head with Afro-Cuban rhythms, but they're present nonetheless. They enrich Sosa's material in their own subtle way, and the Cuban pianist/keyboardist (who employs Paquito D'Rivera as a clarinetist on three selections) demonstrates that Afro-Cuban jazz doesn't have to be something as overt as playing Monk's "Well, You Needn't" as a descarga (Latin jam) or approaching George Gershwin's "I Can't Get Started" as a bolero (Latin ballad). Afro-Cuban music isn't the only type of world music that inspires Sosa on Mulatos, which was recorded in Paris in early 2004; Sosa also brings elements of Middle Eastern, North African, and Indian music to his post-bop. Dhafer Youssef (one of the sidemen) is featured on the oud, a traditional Arabic lute that is quite legendary in Middle Eastern music -- and Philippe Foch, another participant, appears on Indian tabla drums. Of course, the oud and the tablas aren't exactly prominent instruments in Afro-Cuban jazz or salsa, but they're major assets on Mulatos -- an album that paints a consistently attractive picture of Sosa's multicultural outlook. Mulatos is yet another broad-minded project that Sosa can be proud to have in his catalog. ~ Alex Henderson

Latin Jazz - Released March 15, 2011 | world village

Although Omar Sosa has excelled in group settings, the Cuban pianist has demonstrated that he is also quite comfortable playing unaccompanied, which is what he does on Calma. Sosa has no accompaniment at all on Calma, a 2009 recording that combines post-bop with elements of world music and Euro-classical music. He not only plays the acoustic piano here; but is also heard on electric keyboards and using some sampling and electronics. And the very fact that Sosa doesn't adhere to an all-acoustic-all-the-time policy on this 51-minute CD will no doubt scare jazz purists away. Regardless, Sosa's acoustic piano is the dominant instrument, and 95-percent of the time, Calma sounds played rather than programmed. In both Spanish and Italian, the word "calma" means "calm", which is exactly how Sosa sounds on this album; his playing is calm and relaxed, and a contemplative mood prevails on originals such as "Innocence," "Esperanza," "Walking Together," and "Aguas." That is not to say that Calma is one-dimensional. Different world music influences assert themselves on different pieces, and during the course of the album, Sosa incorporates everything from Afro-Cuban music to Indian, Middle Eastern/Arabic, Asian, and North African music. Plus, there is the Euro-classical influence: "Dance of Reflection," for example, hints at Erik Satie (who died in 1925 but continues to influence both classical and jazz musicians after all these years). So even though Sosa maintains a certain mood on Calma, there is also a fair amount of variety. Again, Calma doesn't cater to jazz purists, and the rigid dogmatists and musical ideologues who think that Chick Corea, George Duke, and Herbie Hancock sold their souls to Beelzebub when they started playing electric keyboards, will want to avoid this album. But for those who realize that non-acoustic instruments do, in fact, have a place in jazz, Calma is yet another absorbing effort from Sosa. ~ Alex Henderson


Latin Jazz in the magazine
  • From Father to Son
    From Father to Son Chucho Valdés and Arturo O’Farrill celebrate the art of Bebo Valdés and Chico O’Farrill…