Joo Kraus, Omar Sosa and Gustavo Ovalles

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Joo Kraus, Omar Sosa and Gustavo Ovalles
Otá (

Listen "Down The Alley"

Cuban pianist-composer Omar Sosa is an artist abundant with musical ideas, working with an ever-surprising cross-section of immensely talented international compatriots, pursuing multiple projects that never repeat themselves - as with this live outing, allied with German trumpeter-flugelhornist-EFX-vocalist Joo Kraus and Venezuelan percussionist Gustavo Ovalles.

Other hotwire Sosa projects include the German NDR Bigband, a project coming next year that includes Senegalese singer-kora master Seckou Keita, sheng sorcerer Wu Tong, koto conjurer Mieko Miyazaki, and Ovalles; and numerous other projects with Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu, Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu, Quarteto AfroCubano, Guadeloupian saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Haiti's Moonlight Benjamin, Cuban vocalist Martha Galarraga and Haitian percussionist Claude Saturne. In short, Sosa gets around, to the listener's ever-wondering awe.

JOG (a Radio Bremen concert production, with the final two tracks recorded live in Ulm, Albert Einstein's home town) features 11 diverse compositions by Kraus and Sosa (Yamaha grand, Fender Rhodes, electronics, vocals). Anyone who's seen Omar perform anticipates not merely an aesthetic but a spiritual experience, and JOG is no exception with its delicate mood-shifting dynamics. As if instructive reinterpretations of several signature Sosa compositions ("Iyawo," "Muévete en D," "Recaredo," "Light in the Sky") were not enough, Kraus and Sosa open new cross-sonic territory with spare interplay on tunes like "Wood Soul"; a mournful, reflective, Cuban-inflected "JOG Mode"; and the rootless cosmopolitan hip-hop texture of "Down the Alley," with Kraus on vocals - before drifting away with the aptly denominated "Peace River."

The emotional impact of a live Sosa performance is palpable: here the trio engages intuitively, one with another, in ways whose inventive sense of delight cannot be anticipated, only savored. Beyond audio taxonomy, this is music for Every(hu)man. The deepest of listeners, Sosa's open-hearted artistry leaves the conservatory indoctrinated notes-without-meaning-per-second technical fetishists in the cosmic dust of a higher calling, with intense compassion and a profound sense of humanity. - Michael Stone


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