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Omar Sosa & Seckou Keith: Transparent Water (Otá)

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Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita: "Transparent Water"
Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita: “Transparent Water”

A little motif can do and become anything in the hands of Cuban keyboardist Omar Sosa, especially when he’s abetted by Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita and an international cast of kindred spirits. While there’s ample recorded evidence of Sosa’s gifts for composing and collaborating with distinction, the music on Transparent Water projects special charms—sublime, soulful and spiritual by turns. Even when improvising with Keita, which is the primary focus here, Sosa’s attention to tonal shadings and thematic allure is a given. Melodies that fold back on themselves, more often than not in a gracefully insinuating fashion, remain a hallmark of his sound. Sosa’s close kinship with Keita, who doubles on percussion, amplifies the album’s global perspective, and much the same can be said for a Silk Road-tinted lineup that includes sheng virtuoso Wu Tong and koto artist Mieko Miyazaki.

Beginning with “Dary,” the first of 10 selections composed by Sosa and Keita, the duo’s simpatico rapport is evident, though their most striking alliances arrive later—via “Mining-Nah,” a buoyant contrast to the album’s serene pleasures, and other tracks that feature vocal performances by Sosa and Keita. All the while their companions add evocative touches, from polyrhythmic weaves, keening interludes and chamber-like ensemble work to the occasional guitar-flavored flourish or blue note. Apparently Sosa traveled far and wide to overdub some of the musicians who play significant roles here, but, in the end, the performances appear seamless. Mileage well spent.

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