Omar Sosa is a fusion artist in the best sense of the word. The virtuosic pianist mixes his Cuban roots with tastes of bebop, free jazz, even hip-hop and electronica, into a strikingly fresh and spicy modern stew that's much more than the sum of its ingredients. Sosa's new duo album with Venezuelan percussionist Gustavo Ovalles was recorded before a live audience in Japan. Much of the energetic set sounds freely improvised, with Sosa moving from delicate, unabashedly romantic melodies to wild blasts of percussive noise in a manner that recalls the best of Keith Jarrett, though without the grunts. There's an underlying passion and spirituality to Sosa's playing that shines through at all times; plus he's got plenty of chops.
Ovalles, playing a variety of Venezuelan percussion instruments, as well as congas, maracas, guiro, snare and cymbals, interacts seamlessly and unobtrusively with Sosa. The two share a devotion to creative explorations rooted in Afro-Cuban rhythms, but wide open to a world of other influences. This is “Latin jazz” for the 21st century.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazzNew York