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Joo Kraus/Omar Sosa/Gustavo Ovalles: JOG

Dan Bilawsky By

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You have to hand it to pianist Omar Sosa. With the exception of some return trips to the solo piano format, he never really repeats himself. Over the past two decades, Sosa has worked alone, gone the duo route with Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu, shared billing/leadership duties with flutist Mark Weinstein, worked with Germany's NDR Bigband, paid tribute to Miles Davis' iconic Kind Of Blue (Columbia Records, 1959) in unique fashion, mingled with Moroccan musicians, worked the Afro-Cuban seam in multiple ways, and taken rhythmic exploration and musical mysticism about as far as they can possibly go. He remains restless, constantly seeking, searching, and scouring the globe and the innermost recesses of his mind and spirit. Yet he also values consistency in sound, approach, and relationships. It's that interesting dichotomy that's at the heart of this album.

The newly-minted JOG trio, taking its name from the forename initial of each of its members, is directly connected to Sosa's previous work and associations. German trumpeter Joo Kraus was part of The Afri-Lectric Experience—the band behind Sosa's Grammy-nominated Eggun (Ota Records, 2012)—and Venezuelan percussionist Gustavo Ovalles appeared on that same project and made significant contributions to other Sosa works, including Sentir (Ota Records, 2002). All three are united in their appreciation of aural arcana and mood art, contributing to their success here in creating compelling soundscapes and cinematic constructs as a trio.

This group made its debut at Hamburg's Kunstflecken Festival in 2014. The majority of the music that appears on JOG was recorded for a live radio broadcast at Radio Bremen one day later. As with most of Sosa's projects, the music can be trance-inducing, mournful, brooding, or, in rarer instances, carefree. "Moforibale" opens on icy drama, as Kraus' muted trumpet takes its time setting the mood. Ovalles' galloping percussion eventually sets a pace, heightening the low flame intensity at play in the music. "Enchanted Breeze"—the shortest track on the album, clocking in at just over two minutes—starts with intrigue before speaking to promise and light, as Sosa's piano paints atop a glowing foundation. Then there's the enigmatic "Echo Bay," the first piece to feature Kraus' spoken word rap; "Muevete En D," a lighthearted dance with playful shaker work from Ovalles; the trippy "Wood Soul," full of organic interplay and action; and the mournful "Recaredo," affecting in its embrace of somberness and solitude. Most of the remaining tracks, such as the sad and somewhat ominous "Light In The Sky" and the peace-loving "Iyawo," can basically be connected, in terms of temperament, to the aforementioned works.

There's a slow suffusion of emotion that takes place as JOG plays out, making for a somewhat religious listening experience. That's part and parcel of Sosa's work, but it's also a reflection of what Kraus and Ovalles bring to the table. JOG is a true team effort that yields some interesting and entrancing music.

Track Listing: Moforibale; Enchanted Breeze; Echo Bay; Muevete En D; Wood Soul; Recaredo; Down The Alley; Light In The Sky; Iyawo; JOG Mode; Peace River.

Personnel: Joo Kraus: trumpet, flugelhorn, effects, vocals; Omar Sosa: piano, Fender Rhodes, Motif ES8, samplers, effects, vocals; Gustavo Ovalles: percussion.

Title: JOG | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Ota Records

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