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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

OMAR SOSA

By Michael Stone
Published October 28, 2005

Ballads: Compilation 1997-2000
Otá OTA1015

Cuban pianist-composer-bandleader Omar Sosa describes this retrospective on his early work as “ten themes of yesterday,” but his artistry has never been anything but forward looking. Evident throughout is the inspired introspection that infuses Sosa’s work. “The spirits play through us,” he says, a matter-of-fact observation borne out in his invocation of the Cuban orishas who animate his live performances and recordings alike. The individual virtuosity of the gifted talents he enlists is self evident, but the overall approach is understated, and resonant throughout is the ensemble effect, an exquisite collective sound. Hear the expressive lyricism of “Para ella,” the muted orchestral breadth of “Gracias señor,” the serene ebb and flow of “Para dos parados,” the subtle montuno drive of “Antes de ir va esto,” the tender bolero of “Mis tres notas.” Sosa’s faraway balladry is dappled with allusions to Frederic Chopin, Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans, but the instrumental signature is purely his own. Sosa is an artist who listens, intimately, and in so doing, he inspires the finest in all who will hear, musicians and audience alike.