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Omar Sosa: Prietos

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Omar Sosa: Prietos No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Something of a high priest of African-American music, Cuban pianist Omar Sosa has a direct link to the spirits. He collects an international cadre of musicians to channel this higher energy into recorded form on Prietos. The result: a sprawling disc which explores idioms from West Africa, South America, Cuba, and the United States. While Sosa appears content to explore an idiom in its simplest and most direct form, he generally prefers to mix things up. You might hear a Yoruba prayer chant alongside a muted trumpet solo straight out of the jazz tradition, as on "Mother Africa." Or Brazillian poetry alongside an Ecuadoran chorus and a pulsing piano chorale, as on "Niño Divino." Most of the time, drummers and percussionists weave a dense fabric of interlaced rhythms on instruments indigenous to Africa as well as the New World.

Sosa deserves special credit for two accomplishments on Prietos.

First, he manages to integrate an incredibly broad variety of styles without sounding forced or pretentious. When the music of Morocco collides with the music of Cuba, Sosa finds enough in common to unite them into a seamless whole. The secret appears to be grounded respect for the African and post-African traditions. Prietos is more a recognition of common ground than any kind of post-modern pastiche. As Sosa puts it in the liner notes: "We are all children of the same Mother Africa."

Second, Sosa plays a vital role on the piano. His work at the keyboard displays literacy within the North American jazz tradition, as well as various musics of Latin America and Africa. In order to sew up the genres he brings together, Sosa utilizes a light touch and an impeccable sense of rhythm. During a couple of time-outs near the end of the disc, Sosa waxes lyrical—allowing one to appreciate the sweetness of simplicity.

It's hard to praise Prietos enough. The "Latin jazz" staple of North American music falls miles short of this epic fusion. Whether it be rap or djembe or marimba, every element of the African diaspora finds a home here. Omar Sosa, keeper of the flame, channels the energy from the human pulse to the throb of the drums to the fire of the gods. And back.

Track Listing: Eleggu Takes a Second; Mother Africa; Nio Divino; Cha-Amarillo; Sleeping Lion; Blanco en Africa; Twice as Sad; Why So Complicated?; Fragile; Desde All; Prietos; Misa.

Personnel: Omar Sosa: piano, vocals, timbal; Elliot Kavee: drums; Geoff Brennan: acoustic bass; Gustavo Ovalles: Afro-Venezuelan and Afro-Cuban percussion; Will Power: rap vocals; Martha Galarraga: Yoruba vocals. Plus 25 guests.

Record Label: Ota Records

Style: Latin/World


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