Pianist Omar Sosa’s music combines the best aspects of jazz and Cuban music. Born in Camaguey, Sosa trained in classical music and percussion at the same time his dad was listening to jazz.
“My dad listened to African-American music every Sunday. He’s sit on the couch and have his little drink and listen to Nat King Cole, Count Basie, Oscar Peterson,” laughs Sosa over the phone from the Bay Area, “I’d say, ‘what is this?’ and he’d say, ‘This is heaven.’”
Sosa was particularly impressed with the improvisation.
“My dad told me ‘this comes from the bottom of the heart,” reminisces Sosa, “I said, ‘Well, the heart has to be very big to have all this information.’”
Jazz was looked down upon in 1970s Cuba, and to Sosa, that was part of the appeal.
“I had the desire to have something that was forbidden,” he said.
Since leaving Cuba, Sosa has studied the Afro-Cuban tradition here, in Europe, and in Africa. He has added it to his training and jazz music to make a sound that is unique to his band.
Sosa’s music combines the precision of his classical training with the Afro-Cuban rhythms and the thrill of making music on the spot with top-notch, familiar musicians.
He points out, “The drummer and saxophone are from my home town. The bassist is from Africa. So now I’ve got 75% of a Cuban band. We have three Cubans from the same village.”
Sosa’s music also has a lightness that music of great spirituality possesses. As he says, “We combine all this tradition and all the music and all the knowledge we have accumulated throughout our life into today, and we translate that into music.”
It is surprising that for a man with deep knowledge and appreciation of jazz, it’s roots, and its debt to the African Diaspora, Sosa has never been to New Orleans.
“New Orleans is the closest city in the U.S. To the Caribbean,” he said. ”We are brothers. My dad had said to me, ‘You need to look for the place where this music comes from.’ The time has come for me to go. I think this is my moment for New Orleans. I’m looking forward to being there and going to Congo Square. I am like a boy waiting for his Christmas gifts, and you don’t know what your family is going to give. My heart is completely open to receive whatever it is to get.”Omar Sosa Quarteto AfroCubano
Saturday, July 26
Shows at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. [youtube]http://youtu.be/HLU8sYCGhqc[/youtube]