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Omar Sosa and Adam Rudolph: Pictures of Soul

John Kelman By

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With a rapidly growing discography, pianist Omar Sosa is demonstrating capabilities that extend far beyond his Afro-Cuban roots. In Pictures of Soul , an intimate duet recording with percussionist Adam Rudolph, he shows that his influences range far wider, and that he is fashioning these influences into a language all his own.

Comparisons will likely be made to Keith Jarrett, and clearly Sosa shares the same Faulkner-esque stream-of-consciousness ability to seemingly pull melodies out of the ether; but whereas Jarrett has a strong footing in the blues and gospel music, Sosa's folk roots are more in the South American and African dialects.

Rudolph was a relatively early exponent of world music, having played in the 1970s with Gambian and Moroccan musicians. In this impromptu session, where there were no charts and nothing was predefined, Rudolph and Sosa use melodies and rhythms from around the world to create an album which varies from the trance-inducing ambient track, "Pilgrimage," where Sosa eschews his main instrument for the harmonium and Fender Rhodes, to more energetic post-bop-informed miniatures like "Cuzco Refrain."

Sosa expands his sonic palette, incorporating playing inside the piano box and modifying the instrument by placing vibrating instruments on the strings on "Dreams." Rudolph's textural capabilities are even broader, utilizing all manner of ethnic percussion instruments, gongs and cymbals, as well as flutes on tracks including "Kachirumba" and the pastoral "Eye of the Blackbird."

Each player defines; Sosa plays with an impressionistic touch on "Portrait" and "Winter of the Flower"; Rudolph's percussion sometimes punctuates, as on "The Call," and other times creates hypnotic rhythms, as on "The Wandering Night." Like Egberto Gismonti, Omar Sosa seems intent on fashioning new sounds from existing patterns. With Rudolph, he has a sympathetic partner. There is much of the familiar in what they do; yet somehow they manage to combine to create a sound that feels, at the same time, refreshingly different.

Pictures of Soul represents a meeting of two artists who have enjoyed each other's work from afar for some time; with this collaboration they have created a work that engages the ear and relaxes the mind. Hopefully this won't be the last time Sosa and Rudolph meet for a session of transcendence and discovery.

Visit Omar Sosa and Adam Rudolph on the web.

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