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Omar Sosa

Cuban-born pianist/multi-instrumentalist Omar Sosa is a prolific, much lauded performer known for his genre-bending recordings fusing Latin jazz, African traditions, avant-garde improvisation, classical music, and more. A multi-Grammy winner, he has released dozens of albums since 1996's Omar Omar. His multivalent style fuses a wide range of world music and electronic elements with his Afro-Cuban roots to create a fresh and original urban sound with a Latin jazz heart. 1999's Spirit of the Roots showcased folk and carnival styles alongside Santeria ceremonial music and post-bop. 2004's Mulatos, with an international band, offered juxtapositions of modern jazz, Latin funk, and Jewish and Arabic music, propelled by Cuban rhythms. In 2010 he made Ceremony, the first of two collaborative albums with the NDR Big Band. 2013's electro-acoustic Eggun revealed pop, soul, and R&B inside Latin jazz while re-interpreting Miles Davis. 2017's Transparent Water was a duo collaboration with kora maestro Seckou Keita. 2022's Manos was recorded in concert with countrywoman pianist Marialy Pacheco. Born on April 10, 1965 in Camaguey, Cuba, Sosa began studying music at age five while attending the Escuela Provincial de Musica in Camaguey. This led to his intense study of drums and percussion at two other schools during the late '70s and early '80s: Cuba's Escuela Nacional de Musica and Instituto Superior de Arte. Sosa then began to teach percussion to children before he created the group Tributo in 1986, for which he penned, oversaw, and toured behind two of their albums. This was followed by Sosa's work with Cuban vocalist Vicente Feliú (1988's Arteporética), the group XL Talla Extra with Cuban vocalist Xiomara Laugart, the jazz fusion outfit Entrenoz, the Afro-Ecuadorian band Koral y Esmeralda, and (as keyboardist) the band Koan Fussion. After settling in San Francisco in the mid-'90s, Sosa began issuing solo albums: the 1996 solo piano showcase Omar Omar, 1997's ensemble-based Free Roots, 1998's Inside, 1999's Spirit of the Roots and Bembon, and 2000's Prietos. In addition, Sosa produced recordings for Ricardo Williams, Leo Mass, and Vino y Miel. In 2002, he issued the expansive Sentir, for which he earned a Latin Grammy Award nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album. Ayaguna appeared in 2003, followed a year later by the duet album Pictures of Soul with percussionist Adam Rudolph. He next joined Italian flügelhornist Paulo Fresu for 2007's Promise, and debuted his Afreecanos album, by his group of the same name, in 2008. Sosa then delivered a handful of equally well-received ethnic fusion albums, including 2009's Tales from the Earth with flutist Mark Weinstein, 2010's Ceremony with the NDR BigBand, and 2011's solo piano recording Calma. In 2012, Sosa paired again with flügelhornist Fresu for Alma, which also included Jacques Morelenbaum. Two years later, he earned yet another Grammy Award nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album with Eggun: The Afri-Lectric Experience, a reimagining of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. He then showcased his Quarteto AfroCubano on 2015's Ilé, and paired for a third time with Fresu for 2016's Eros. That same year, his working group re-teamed with NDR Big Band for Es: Sensual. In 2017, Sosa collaborated with Senegalese kora player and drummer Seckou Keita on Transparent Water. The following year he was joined by Cuban-Swiss violinist and composer Yilian Cañizares for Aguas. He and Keita re-teamed for Suba in 2020. 2021's East African Journey actually began when Sosa was on tour in the region in 2009; it was completed early in 2020. He released Manos in 2022 -- a live concert collaboration with Cuban pianist and composer Marialy Pacheco.
© Greg Prato /TiVo
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