On his latest release, pianist Omar Sosa has placed nine strong original compositions in the hands of creative improvisers from diverse ethnicities with striking results. A significant world music happening that succeeds on multiple levels, Mulatos allows Cuban, African, Middle-Eastern, and European musical traditions to remain true to their roots while they blend with American jazz to form a newly palpable whole.
The traditional is certainly here, but Sosa's prudent use of sampling and drummer/producer Steve Argüelles' scratching adds immediacy to several cuts. Likewise, the inventive placement of instruments with contrasting timbre makes for surprising and memorable moments. Such is this case on "Dos Caminos, as Paquito D'Rivera's joyfully pure clarinet sets up against piano, drums, and Philippe Foch's tabla to create a distinctively modern sound. Although D'Rivera appears on only three songs, clarinetist Renaud Pion is much in evidence on soprano, bass, and contrabass. He adds his own coloration to the sensually rhythmic "La Tra and the hauntingly lovely "La Llamada.
As a pianist, Sosa can, with equal skill, deliver the beautifully unhurried melodic line of the enchanting "Iyawo or cook up a storm for the session's opener, "Temura. He augments this by also employing Rhodes, harmonium, marimba, vibes, and assorted percussion to add even more depth. Along with piano and clarinet, Dhafer Youssef's oud is also an integral part of the sound. He adds a unique voice, whether it be in the background instrumental chorus or up front. On the undulating "El Consenso, he takes charge over a backdrop of tabla, drums, and tubular bells to blissfully bring things to a close. As if all this wasn't enough, the Morrocan percussion of Aziz Arradi's guembri (bass percussive lute) and qarqabas (metal castanets), along with Dieter Ilg's acoustic bass, serve as a unifying force throughout to help turn this into a stylistic triumph. With Mulatos, pianist Omar Sosa has woven together distinct traditions to fashion an exceptionally finely tailored musical cloak.
Track Listing: Ternura; Nuevo Manto; La Tra; Reposo; La Llamada; Dos Caminos; Iyawo; L3zero; El Consenso
Personnel: Omar Sosa, piano, Fender Rhodes, harmonium, marimba, vibraphone, tubular bells, all percussion, samples, vocal; Dhafer Youssef, oud; Renaud Pion, clarinet, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet; Dieter Ilg, acoustic bass; Philippe Foch, tabla, bowl; Steve Arguelles, drums, scratches; Aziz Arradi, guembri, qarqabas, vocal; Paquito D'Rivera, clarinet on 1,2,6