Sosa_span3
January/February 2007

Omar Sosa
Live à FIP
OTA Records

This quasi-live album was recorded at Radio France in Paris. The “live, studio audience” sounds delighted with Omar Sosa’s band (Sosa on piano and vocals, Luis Depestre on saxophones, “Angá” Díaz on percussion, Childo Tomas on electric bass and vocals, Steve Argüelles on drums). That audience is not alone. Smart critics, like Ben Ratliff and Don Heckman, are on record as liking Sosa’s stuff, and he has received several industry awards in the Latin-jazz category including Grammy nominations.

My minority opinion is that Sosa plays well-crafted world-music kitsch. He is known for his eclecticism, and no doubt only a sophisticated musical administrator could blend and balance his diversity of sources (various Latin dance grooves, African vocal trance music, European folk songs, jazz elements, au courant electronics). But everything is so self-consciously stage-managed that even the rhythmic explosions are not quite believable. As a pianist, Sosa is fast and exact and, over the course of this album, fails to uncover one interesting idea.

When the music mellows out, as on “Iyawo” and “El Consenso,” it is melodically tepid and overly sweet. As a saxophonist, Luis Depestre is a competent, one-dimensional shouter.

Originally published in January/February 2007
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