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In what might be considered a heartfelt ode to Africa, Cuba and America, Grammy-winning pianist/composer, Omar Sosa offers Across The Divide: A Tale Of Rhythm & Ancestry. Both inspired and uplifting it encompasses a "song cycle" that documents the shared rhythms of Sosa's ancestry and Tim Eriksen, a New England ethno-musicologist specializing in native and adopted American music.
The program musically tells of the paths of history towards the present; informed of the Middle Passage slave ships bound for America to the election of Barack Obama, the United States' first African-American president. Blending jazz, folk, song and spoken word, with both acoustic/electronic instruments and technologies, it emphatically embraces the differences and celebrates the similarities of cultures.
Recorded live at New York's Blue Note (with savvy post production sound sculpting), Sosa's sextet presented a thought provoking and entertaining performance. Divergent styles are experienced in "Promised Land" where Eriksen hauntingly sings an 18th century Welsh hymn, better known as "Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah," and still commonly heard in Black churches in the South. His Celtic-tinged voice in contrast with the melody, interspersed with sampled readings from Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. This followed by the exhilarating "Glu-Glu," a dancing instrumental filled with the sounds of chants as Sosa rises with prismatic soloing.
The remaining tracks move between equally eclectic shores. "Gabriel's Trumpet" a mid-19th century tune from Maine, is reborn as American folklore meets Afro-Cubano; Eriksen's rural dialect meshed comfortably within the soulful, jazzed gospel groove. The stirringly poignant "Across Africa" pieces are encapsulated in a rain forest of sounds including piano, flute, and electronica such as the sampled voices of Sosa's children.
Sosa, Eriksen and cast of other talents unveil a place where the banjo is at peace with the saxophone, the piano is kin to kalimba, disparate languages are translated, and music across varied borders finds commonality. Another profound recording by the continually searching Omar Sosa.
Track Listing: Promised Land; Glu-Glu; Gabriel's Trumpet; Across Africa (The Dream);
Across Africa (The Arrival); Sugar Baby Blues; Night of the Four
Songs; Solstice; Ancestors.
Personnel: Omar Sosa: piano, Fender Rhodes, electronics, samplers, vocals; Tim
Eriksen: vocals, banjo, violin; Childo Tomas: electric and electro-
acoustic bass guitars, kalimba, chigovia, vocals; Marque Gilmore:
acousti-lectric drumz, vocals; Leandro Saint-Hill: soprano, alto,
tenor saxophones, clarinet, flutes, caxixis; David Gilmore: acoustic
& electric guitars; Ramon Diaz: bat drums, congas, cajon, vocals.
Jazz is a creative explosion of individual freedom and communication.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was a kid. My father had a music store.
The best live performance I ever attended was Kenny Garrett in Harlem, New York.
The first jazz record I bought was Saxophone Colossus by Sonny Rollins.
My advice to new listeners is keep listening!