312

Omar Sosa: Ballads

By

Sign in to view read count
Omar Sosa: Ballads Perhaps this is the finest CD saddled with a concept I dislike that I've heard in years. Strange category? Yes, here we find one of the supreme Cuban jazz pianists of our era with a career retrospective of only ballads. It is one matter to provide a "John Coltrane for Lovers compilation—in fact there are two currently on the market—because Coltrane's oeuvre outside of ballads has long been available.

But Omar Sosa is not yet a force in the jazz bins on that level, and here we get a ballad reduction from four previous albums that were not exactly widely distributed. This means that if you're hearing Sosa for the first time on Ballads, you can't even guess how deeply percussive his attack is, and how married his improvisations are with the traditional rhythms of Afro-Cuban music. You might think on the basis of this CD that Sosa is Cuba's answer to Bill Evans.

And that is far from the truth. Sosa was classically trained, and you can hear the Evans influence through recastings of Chopin and Debussy. There's a lot of sturdy French romanticism in his ten original compositions in this collection, not surprising since Spanish and Cuban composers have long found fertile ground in that musical vein. Lots of dreamy pastel harmonies, great washes of minor mode colors, as if a musical Monet visited Havana before returning to the colors of his home garden. There's some sumptuous playing throughout, particularly when Sosa gets into a musical conversation with the dry-as-fine-wine tenor sax of Sheldon Brown. But this represents only one level of Sosa's art.

What you completely miss on this "Sosa for Lovers release is the sheer bracing bravado of the Santeria rhythms mixed and matched with Middle Eastern melodies and a sprinkling of electronica that can be found on his flawless recent release, Mulatos. He's a high-energy player with a sentimental streak that ballads give him plenty of room to toy with.

The most exciting ballads on this disc find him backed by tablas, those drums from India that can sometimes be mistaken on recordings for Cuban bata drums. Sosa thrives in an atmosphere of odd time signatures articulated by wily drummers. If he needed a concept album, a better concept would have been to borrow one from Art Blakey, something like "Sosa Does Rhythms of Two Continents or "Sosa's Greatest Beats.

In the meantime, be grateful for the lovely and lush music here, but be sure to check out Mulatos immediately—if you haven't already—in order to get a more multidimensional image of a major pianist who is still maturing.


Track Listing: Mis Tres Notas; Para Ella; Fragile; Twice as Sad; Gracias Senor; Para Dos Parados; Antes De Ir Va Esto; Tienes Un Solo; Raya, Shirma.

Personnel: Omar Sosa: piano and percussion; Rahsaan Fredericks, Geoff Brennan: bass; Eliot Kavee: drums, Maria Marquez: vocals; Sheldon Brown: tenor saxophone and clarinet; Rattu Lama, Steve Robertson: tablas; and others.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Ota Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Seasons 1-4 Live" CD/LP/Track Review Seasons 1-4 Live
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: January 6, 2017
Read "Umbra" CD/LP/Track Review Umbra
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 31, 2016
Read "Som før" CD/LP/Track Review Som før
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: June 4, 2016
Read "Intermission" CD/LP/Track Review Intermission
by Dave Wayne
Published: June 24, 2016
Read "Danse" CD/LP/Track Review Danse
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 7, 2017
Read "Traffic" CD/LP/Track Review Traffic
by Dave Wayne
Published: September 8, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!