[Dixielandjazz] International Jazz

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet@earthlink.net
Fri, 28 Jun 2002 09:58:15 -0400

List mates,

Not OKOM, even with the references to Yoruba chants and religious praise
songs.  May not interest all of us on the list, but this is a
fascinating review of a group of modern international jazz musicians.
And you have to admire the showmanship.  Can't resist posting it.

Steve Barbone

June 28, 2002, New York Times

Votive Candles and Wild Riffs


The Cuban-born pianist Omar Sosa has a nearly feral sense of
showmanship: at the Blue Note on Monday night, performing for the first
time in New York, he came to flatten the crowd, and he did.

Mr. Sosa, who since leaving Cuba in 1993 has moved between Ecuador,
Spain and San Francisco, knows how to make an
entrance. His band members appeared one by one, beginning with the
singer Martha Galarraga, who is Cuban. She started a
religious praise song. She was followed by the drummer, Elliott Kavee,
from New York; the bassist, Geoff Brennan, and the
saxophonist, Eric Crystal, both from San Francisco; the percussionist,
Gustavo Ovalles, from Venezuela; and the rapper Brutha
Los, from the Oakland-based hip-hop duo Company of Prophets.

Mr. Sosa completed the spectrum, dressed in a white gown, holding a
votive candle and a red satin scarf; he was wearing a
collapsible white hat that looked like a Noguchi lampshade.

And as soon as he took the stage, the Afro-Cuban vamp that the band had
assembled shifted into wild, aggressive, polytonal jazz; a few minutes
later, the band was joined by Said Hakmoun, a Moroccan singer, who
wailed improvisations in Arabic scales. It became a rowdy group, happy
under the watch of Mr. Sosa's goofy, hyperanimated grin. He didn't seem
concerned about showing the empirical concurrences between the rhythms
and modes of different cultures; he preferred that everyone exult

By far the greatest joys of the evening came in rhythmic vamps and
breakdowns, when Brutha Los free-styled a rap about riding
with Jesus in a Cadillac or when Ms. Galarraga intoned Yoruba chants and
the band just worked out. But Mr. Sosa also furnished meticulously
arranged parts to open and close his tunes; they showed that he had
absorbed the standard modern jazz musician's diet of Pat Metheny, Milton
Nascimento and Weather Report.

He played an astonishing piano solo, drenched in floridly classical,
superanimated Cuban piano technique. And he even plunged
into astringent free improvisation with bass and drums, in the Cecil
Taylor mode; he ultimately used it as a flavor, but not without playing
it seriously for at least a minute.

A minute was about as long as Mr. Sosa could tarry in any one style.
Mixed with his hippie-ish, people-of-all-stripes sensibility
was a sense of impatience constantly threatening to undermine the entire
project. But the set held together, and proved Mr. Sosa's charismatic
large-canvas imagination.