Omar Sosa Pictures of Soul Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

...will be adored by Sosa-followers as well as fans of percussion led music.

Chris Moss 2004

Just when Cuba seemed to be on the wane - or pigeonholed into oblivion - here comes pianist Omar Sosa to stir you out of any clichés or salsa-son fatigue you may be suffering from.

As on earlier discs, he enlivens Caribbeantraditions with masterful jazz piano, by turns clamorous, poignant, playful and even swinging. Yes, there's definitely a hint of old Havana in the background, but it's repackaged to work within a wider musical envelope, with Arabian/Maghrebi strains and African ritual rhythms.

Chicago-born, globetrotting percussionist Adam Rudolph is Sosa's ideal musical soul mate, battering the hell out of raw leather, artfully playing thumb piano or stroking woodblocks till they catch fire. Rudolph also plays a mean flute and throws in an occasional chant.

Even more than on his previous album, "Sentir", Sosa seems to be committed to fusing every influence he can unearth - from Moroccan gnawa music and samba to his own island's strong rumbaroots - and opting for experiment over ease of listening.

Not that this is overly cerebral or sterile studio/concert music - there's a jungle on the sleeve, the sun shining hazily through humid, hanging palm leaves and there's a lot of jungle inside too. Tribal dance beats drive "Kachirumba" and breathy cymbals, clattering wood and the calm siesta sound of insects feature in "Green Silence".

What makes the Sosa/Rudolphcollaborationsucceed though, are their rigorous music-obsessed minds and virtuoso performances - their productions are never bland or cheap to listen to, and as befits crossroads, changing direction is the only guidingprinciple.

Edgy and entertaining,"Pictures of Soul"will be adored by Sosa-followers as well as fans of percussion led music. But people looking for a 'safe' or backgroundCuban style should steer clear - I suspect Omar Sosa likes the audacious artistry of John Cage more than the rolling riffs of Buena Vista, Benny More, Oscar d'Leonet al.

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