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Omar Sosa: Live a FIP (2007)

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Omar Sosa: Live a FIP How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

In the distant future, when our space explorers finally make contact with extraterrestrial life, it will surprise no one if those beings are big fans of Cuban pianist Omar Sosa, whose music sounds like it was unearthed from the wreckage of a crashed alien spacecraft from the planet Sabroso.

In recent years, with albums such as Mulatos (Ot, 2004), Sosa has managed to be both harmonically and rhythmically inventive while remaining grounded in the clave. Live FIP, which documents a May 2005 performance in Paris, finds Sosa and his quintet in rich harmonic territory—and deep in the pocket.

This is Sosa's first live record to feature a full band, including Sosa regulars and fellow Cubans Miguel "Ang" Diaz on percussion and Luis Depestre on saxophones, plus Mozambique-born electric bassist Childo Tomas. The group is rounded out by Paris-based drummer Steve Argelles, who produced both Mulatos and the subsequent Mulatos Remix (Ot, 2006).

The album begins with Sosa's "Nuevo Manto," a showcase for saxophonist Depestre. He crafts a masterful solo, simmering his ideas over Sosa's pointillist comping until the 7:21 point, when the rhythm section locks into an eccentric montuno and the saxophonist boils over. On "African Sunrise," Sosa and Tomas' chanted vocals are carried along on a floating cloud of percussion from Diaz and Argelles, augmented by Tomas's mbira.

Tomas and Sosa thrust and feint around each other during the introduction to "Dos Caminos," which features a melodic line that would be at home on any of Chick Corea's Latin projects. The piece—like every track on the album, a Sosa composition—cuts back and forth between full-band statements and the minimalist dance of piano and bass. The delicate "Iyawo" features some of Sosa's most arresting work, combining a feather-light touch with another of his smile-inducing grooves. The middle section breaks into a major key and a township feel that meshes beautifully with the more traditional conga and bell work underneath.

"El Consenso" opens with a probing solo piano statement from Sosa. Once again, Tomas comes in with a fluid bass line that grounds the piece and frees it at the same time. Argelles and Diaz hint at the rhythm with soft cymbal strikes and bells, finally settling into a hypnotic pulse that provides a foundation for more vocal work. Then Depestre enters with a soaring wail on the saxophone that heightens the intensity and carries the tune to its climax.

The band slides right into "Paralelo," which explodes with a mighty groove topped with a melody that would fit perfectly under the fingers of a flamenco guitarist—here doubled by Sosa's right hand and Depestre's saxophone. The band eventually powers into a deadly funk backbeat, the crowd claps along, and Sosa and Tomas rock the mic.

The rousing piano/percussion duet "Muevete En D" is a fitting conclusion to Live FIP, a scintillating album that showcases the best of Sosa's playing and writing.


Track Listing: Nuevo Manto; Metisse; African Sunrise; Dos Caminos; Iyawo; El Consenso; Paralelo; Muevete En D.

Personnel: Omar Sosa: piano, electronics, vocals; Miguel "Ang" Diaz: percussion; Steve Argelles: drums, electronics; Childo Tomas: electric bass, mbira, vocals; Luis Depestre: saxophones, minor hand percussion.

Record Label: Ota Records

Style: Latin/World


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