Mulatos -- Omar Sosa
Ota Records ASIN B0002CHSW4 (Vivid Sound Japan)
This is the first Sosa recording that won’t alienate white bread middle America. Not that there’s anything X rated about his past recordings, but they were a bit over the edge for mainstream listeners of “Wave” music who think Kenny G is a little too far out there. This album could easily get some Wave play, along with the more casual jazz stations who are into people like Stan Getz and play lots of Jobim.
In this album Sosa has moved away from the highly experimental minimalist recordings done in the last two years as well as the hard core fusion efforts such as Prietos and Bembon. With this very mainstream album that will appeal to soft jazz lovers he’s now making the fusion of Latin and Middle Eastern beats sound easy and almost common place!
I’m not saying this is a sell-out either! It’s more like the finished product after making a lot of diamond in the rough works that have a great deal of merit as high musical artistry, but high musical artistry is, unfortunately, not the kind of music you play in the background at a suburban buffet gathering.
Cleverly hidden within this recording are a lot of over the edge moves. The sliding of beats a tad, some exotic instruments, a little improvisational playing, a fusion of tribal cultures from the tropical zone of both the Americas and the North African-Middle Eastern continental regions. That’s a lot of ground to cover in an album of jazz music that easily fits on the six disk CD player along with anything Jobim influenced in the early 1960s or Kenny G covered in the 1990’s.
Here’s a play by play.
A fast tempo jazz song with a lot of Latin percussion and a Middle Eastern segue. It starts off with a dash of vocals and goes straight into some very hot playing by Sosa and the ensemble (Paquito D’Rivera, Dhaler Voussef, Seven Arguelles, Dieter Ilg, Renau Pion, Philippe Foch, Aziz Amadi.
The album was recorded in France, Spain and New York.
Standing out on this song are bass and percussion followed by the horn.
Some of the scat portions of this song reminded me a lot of the solos use in the later sessions of Steely Dan (Royal Scam and Aja albums -- almost that “Mu” or perfect 2nd feel, that could also be generated by a ninth chord, the sound that Denny Diaz, Chuck Rainey and Victor Feldman used to get the “Dan” sound).
As on Sosa’s earlier effort Bembon the musicians just seem to love to redefine where “one” is supposed to be, but this time in more than one place!
2. Nuevo Manto
A slow jazz song with recurring Latin vocal chants and percussion feel throughout. The themes are simple and haunting, giving the soloists lots of room to maneuver.
3. La Tra
Another slow vamp song, this one has more of a traditional jazz feel, yet the Latin chants are still in the background.
4. Reposo and La Liamanda are two very slow, moody songs.
6. Dos Caminos
The tempo gets faster on this ditty, which has a Middle Eastern influenced staccato vamp as the backbone with some hot, soft drumming and a solo by Sosa that gets back to what I’m used to hearing off his past efforts (what I’ve termed as that “Keith Emerson” sound from ELP).
Another slow song featuring Sosa, bass and light percussion at the start, almost a string bass solo then some light vocals. Around the middle they start adding more percussion and layers to the theme and it almost takes on a pop feel.
My first impression of the start was Soso meets Smash Mouth (boy that’s a new area of fusion), after this they go into a Latin-jazz vamp and finally into a Sosa solo. I think a lot of these little “touches” are the result of producer Steve Arguelles, who did an outstanding job with these sessions and the final mixes.
Will this effort net him another Grammy nomination? That’s unclear, but this offering will get a lot of play from a much wider audience base than his more edgy, experimental works, including some mainstream radio play on Wave type radio stations, which will introduce Sosa to a new audience who may find and embrace his earlier works such as Prietos and Bembon that are a little too spicy for the average American who’s been nurtured on microwave music fresh from the freezer.
This album is highly playable start to finish. It’s music you can play for almost anyone in suburbia. It’s music you can play while reading a book or resting in a hammock after a hard week at work. And it’s music with a lot more heart and soul to it than the average offering from the regulars on Wave stations around the country.
Editor's note: We haven't heard this new album from Sosa as yet, but we are including the press release on the album just for your information...
Omar Sosa's new solo piano recording (OTA1013). Recorded live at Radio Bremen, Germany, in November 2003, Aleatoric EFX is Omar Sosa's fourth solo piano recording. The new CD combines Omar's free, improvisatory approach to the piano, with his use of a number of electronic effects, also directed live from the piano during the performance. The result is an engaging, multi-dimensional musical experience, with elements of jazz, classical, new music, and electronica.
The term "aleatoric" refers to the chance or random ways in which the subtle electronic elements mesh with the performance both inside the piano and on the keyboard. From the mysterious, ethereal beginnings of Follow My Shadow, with its bass string drone and yearning melodic figure, to the classical lyricism and haunting beauty of Impromptu in D Minor, the recording opens in a delicate, understated mood. Mute Ostinato in C continues Omar's fascination with the bass drone, as in Indian classical music, combined with a series of lilting rhythmic figures, and unique use of the coco shells inside the piano on the strings. Throughout these opening improvisations, we see the influence of one of Omar's classical music mentors, Erik Satie.
Pentatonic Research reveals some of Omar's daring harmonic sense, built on a dialogue of Eastern-tinged, space-age motifs. This is followed by a version of Omar's signature ballad, Iyawo, with its sweet, romantic melody, sliding, as it often does, into a subtle montuno groove. With Sobre Un Manto en E Minor and Siberian Horses, we continue to find ourselves traversing an aural landscape of longing, urgency and surrender.
Only toward the end of the recording, with Intense Moon in F# Minor and the rousing finale, Muevete en D, another of Omar's signature compositions, does he take the energy to a dramatic level. For those who have enjoyed Omar's previous solo piano outings, "Aleatoric EFX" is sure to be an enjoyable addition to the collection. And for those who are new to this dimension of Omar's musical sensibilities, it is sure to be a good place to start.
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