Ilé couldn’t be more appropriate a name for pianist Omar Sosa’s collection of compositions that oftentimes mine the more celestial aspects of music than the earthy ones. It begs mention, however, that no matter wherever the music comes from, his music is always visceral and hard-hitting. Ilé, with its instinctual energy that always bubbles just beneath the surface, is also unique in that it is an effortless combination of the two aspects of Mr. Sosa’s mystical personality: otherworldly as well as earthy. The pianist impresses further with his effortless tumbao and contrapuntal acuity, singing tone, tightly knot tempo relationships and well-considered embellishments. The lyrical minor-key variations stand out for Mr. Sosa’s subtle and discreetly expressive rubatos. He imbues brisker movements with unusual and persuasive voicings, such as bringing the ballad-like “Momento” suite top notes more to the fore. At times Mr. Sosa’s tempi slightly slows down as a variation unfolds, but it’s true that much of the “Momento” is. The sound here is warm, molten, distinctive and an intelligent of the suite’s narrative.
The poised and stylish piece “D Vuelta” highlighted by its light, precipitous finale, leads into the vitality and sagaciousness of “Old Afro A Baba” a song of exquisite mystery. “A Love Lost” and “Dame La Luz” are superbly controlled and organised. The flamenco tinge of “Mentiras Enemigas” adds much duende to this piece and to the superb Sindo Garay’s composition “La Tarde.” Likewise, the cadenzas on the rest of the “Momento” suite are rhythmically elaborate and the outer sections are appropriately light and soaring. Here Omar Sosa brings impressive sustaining power to the largo sections of the suite, carries on, growing into the more brisk portions of the monumental composition. Again, Mr. Sosa is heard to better advantage when the many members—regular and guesting—of his ensemble offer sharply hones and musically responsive support to his music. And while it may be tempting to single out some of these it would certainly be inappropriate to do so because all of them deliver absolutely exquisite performances to a man (and a woman). Each one’s performance is worth every bit of the applause that should come at the end of the recording.
It is easy to hear how Omar Sosa’s extrovert temperament and big technique has earned him an enviable reputation. His work is shimmering and races out from the starting gate, shaking two-handed virtuosity by the scruff, toying with harmonies, making more melodic sense that usual over blustery trios and octaves that inform his compositions and shading tremolos of something like “La Tarde”, for instance, with maximum variety and beauty. His pianistic prowess suggests that he has comparable technique to rival the best and a greater musical range. Best of all, he orchestrates darker, more savage and thick textures of his music with ravishing tone and cogently contoured lines and links each section of his songs by way of assiduous transitions and unified tempo relationships. Mr. Sosa also imbues his extraordinary music with tremendous colour and poetic sweep in every bar, gilded with changes of voicing and inner lines that evoke memories of the greatest pianists in Cuban music history.
Track List:A Love Lost; Momento I; 4 U; Mentiras Enemigas; Momento II; D Vuelta; Old Afro A Baba; Dame La Luz; Momento III; Sad Meeting; Momento IV; La Tarde; Mi Conga; A Love Lost Reprise.
Personnel: Omar Sosa: grand piano, Fender Rhodes, Motif ES8, samplers, programming and vocal; Ernesto Simpson: drums, vocal and kalimba; Childo Tomas: electric bass, kalimba and vocal; Leandro Saint-Hill: alto and soprano saxophones, flute, clarinet and vocal; Marvin Sewell: guitars (1, 4, 7, 8, 12); José “El Salao” Martín: vocals (4, 12, 13); Kokayi: vocals (1, 7); Zogaros: vocals (1, 6); Lazaro Ross: vocal sample (7); Pedro Martinez: percussion (4, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13); Yosvany Terry: soprano saxophone (2, 5, 9, 11) and chekere (5); Eladio “Don Pancho” Terry: chekere (2, 9); Carlos “El Vikingo” Ronda: palmas (1, 4, 8, 11, 12, 13) and cajón (1, 11).
About Omar Sosa: Since he emigrated from Cuba in 1993, Omar Sosa has forged a distinctive musical path, fusing an array of jazz, world music, hip-hop, and electronic elements with his Afro-Cuban roots. Omar’s newest recording, ilé, marks a homecoming for the 7-time GRAMMY-nominated pianist and composer to the Latin Jazz influences of his formative years in late ‘80s and early ‘90s Havana. Read more…