Eggũn: The Afri-Lectric Experience
Originally a commission from the Barcelona Jazz Festival in 2009, Eggũn: The Afri-Lectric Experience is Cuban pianist, composer and arranger Omar Sosa’s take on Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue on the 50th anniversary of that landmark recording. The Davis album occupies such a place in the imagination of jazz audiences that the assignment, while ripe with possibilities, is also rife with challenges. But even while featuring a band including two saxophones and trumpet (often with Harmon mute), Sosa takes an original path, making occasional direct allusions to Davis’ recording (most notably in some of the connecting interludes) or drawing from melodic cells contained in its solos. Mostly, though, Sosa reinvents the source material by bringing it together with his pan-African and pan-Latin sound.
Sosa has made a career of smartly connecting the dots between disparate African-rooted music while fostering a dialogue between ancient beliefs, traditional instruments and technology, something reflected here in the instrumentation and arranging. In Eggũn—which in Ifá, a West African spiritual practice, signifies the spirits of those who have gone before us—the approach has been so practiced and the different strands have been so tightly woven as to make everything sound and feel of one piece.
It’s only when stepping back that one notices how “So All Freddie” features a merengue and a plena groove, or how “El Alba” unfolds at the pace of a bolero. The melodies and harmonies on “Rumba Connection” float over a discreetly set example of that rhythm. In “Angustiado,” Sosa unexpectedly veers off from an African groove to a montuno and back. Some of the songs, such as the sensual opening track “Alejet,” “El Alba” and “Alternativo Sketches,” have a distinct nocturnal feel that allows them to evoke Davis’ music on their own terms. And the closing “Calling Eggũn” aptly brings it all together, conflating the past and future in a few strokes, bringing Miles to mind with a muted trumpet over a slow-paced incantation that includes speaking voices, piano and tenor sax. In Sosa’s music, the old spirits and the future are never that far apart.