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Omar Sosa & Marialy Pacheco: Manos

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Omar Sosa and Marialy Pacheco
Cuban Pianists, Omar Sosa and Marialy Pacheco

Omar Sosa and Marialy Pacheco… two distinct musical minds, two unique voices, but seemingly of one vision, united as if by one heart, play soulfully like you have rarely heard before. In fact, not since Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock played a series of duets – performances that was captured live on a double album An Evening with Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea [Columbia, 1978] – has something quite so spectacular been committed to tape. What marks this recording as entirely different even from that high watermark of piano performances is the almost mystical nature of this recording, Manos, by Mr Sosa and Miss Pacheco.

They come from almost diametrically opposed schools of thought. Miss Pacheco is almost completely absorbed by her classically shaped background and Mr Sosa, by his Afri-Cuban school of thought. His dance is sparked by a drum-like heartbeat. In Miss Pacheco’s pianism you can often discern gigues and sarabands. But their discernable love for music and the belief that there is, but one music continuum – be it the one that echoes off the shores of Cuba, in Valdés, Flynn and Peruchín, or another that follows the line drawn in the sands of time by Scarlatti, Chopin and Liszt – that binds them together in a spiral of piano DNA.

Omar Sosa & Marialy Pacheco: Manos [Piano Duets · Live]
Omar Sosa & Marialy Pacheco: Manos [Piano Duets · Live]

On the repertoire of Manos Miss Pacheco and Mr Sosa conspire to underline six invented melodies [by one or the other pianist], and one Cuban classic, each with an incipient sense of drama. Light and shadows dance as if in a double helix. Be it in tragedy or in unfettered joy, a sense of catharsis prevails, in wave after wave of music. At any given moment in time Miss Pacheco’s instrument seems to draw towards the front of the stage. Often [and seemingly triggered by some mysterious cue] Mr Sosa’s twin Bösendorfer leaps in to occupy centre-stage, and when he isn’t harmonising and rhapsodising on some line left open by Miss Pacheco, he busies himself with his electronic keyboard, and the air becomes awash with celestial atmospherics; often this too is accompanied by a ghostly chant or chatter seemingly from the great beyond.

Case in point is the song El Bola, as well as midway through Low Tides. On the former, especially the top line melody and the harmonic accompaniment are unforgettably entwined like two lovelorn musicians playing below the beloved’s window. On Angustiado 4 Hands the outer movements are breathtakingly spirited, where textures are heavily weighted and the central, spiraling motif unfolds in a melee of long-breathed heavily pedalled sentences. Mr Sosa, clearly super-charged throughout, fires on all cylinders and both musicians exchange long-limbed improvisations through the montuno. Throughout, Mr Sosa has little to do except make way for Miss Pacheco who, clearly enamoured of her fellow-pianist’s beckoning flights, is easily drawn into the music’s slipstream. If I were to pick a favourite duet that would be on the ethereally beautiful Cambodian Smiles, which is altogether bewitching, its quiet outer movements are superbly articulated and beautifully understated.

The song Metro unfolds in wave after wave of stuttering, shuffling and dancing rhythms finally settling into a towering edifice teeming with chattering melodies seamlessly bound together by each pianist who suggests and develops an idea that is picked up by the other, who then proceeds to engage [with the originator of the idea] in a series of thrusts and parries almost as if challenging one another to a friendly duel. The two sections of the piece are broken up by a marvellously developed montuno section. This ravishingly beautiful set concludes with a rhapsodic version of Moises Simon’s El Manisero. This is a piece that so many pianists – both Cuban and from elsewhere – have contrived to bring to life. But the version on this disc by Mr Sosa and Miss Pacheco provides an account of the vital, colour-and-texture conscious real-life drama; the real thing, as it were, from the lips of the peanut-vendor. Such a spectacular live performance by two pianists will almost certainly be unmatched in many years to come. At one time or another you may feel that the mystical chanting and effects may gave something to do with this, at other times you feel it is the spirituality of Mr Sosa’s playing or the seduction of Miss Pacheco’s own pianism. Whatever the case, this is a feast for the heavens, celebrated right here on earth.

Deo gratis…

Music – 1: El Bola; 2: Low Tides; 3: Angustiado [intro]; 4: Angustiado 4 Hands; 5: Metro; 6: Cambodian Smiles; 7: El Manisero.

Musicians – Omar Sosa: piano, Fender Rhodes, vocals, and effects; Marialy Pacheco: piano.

Released – 2022
Label – Skip Records [SKP 9155-2]
Runtime – 1:13 53

YouTube Video – Marialy Pacheco & Omar Sosa

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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