Hong Kong Arts Festival – Omar Sosa
A good arts festival will feature a range of talent, from established stars to fresh new artists. Once of the most important categories are performers who have established a solid body of work, but have not yet broken through to broader acclaim or success. Omar Sosa fits this bill, though I suspect that based on […]
A good arts festival will feature a range of talent, from established stars to fresh new artists. Once of the most important categories are performers who have established a solid body of work, but have not yet broken through to broader acclaim or success.
Omar Sosa fits this bill, though I suspect that based on his barnstorming performance last week, even wider acclaim in the Jazz and World Music communities will soon be his. Sosa, a Cuban Pianist now based in Spain, has a substantial body of recordings behind him. Over the last decade he has attracted more and more critical acclaim – rising to a Grammy nomination for his 2006 album, Mulatos. Here, in Hong Kong, he toured with a quartet (Maque Gilmore on Drums, Childo Tomas on Bass and Leandro Saint-Hill on Sax and Flute) in support of his recent Afreeecanos album.
Many Jazz artists struggle with the Hong Kong Cultural Centre’s concert hall, which is a mid sized orchestral room with “challenging” acoustics. The room easily dwarfs an introverted performer. But, Sosa and his group had no trouble filling the space with their raucous, strutting and downright funky set of original tunes. In a way, this was stadium Jazz at its best.
The band invoked memories of great 70s Latin-Jazz and Fusion acts, whilst also channelling a very contemporary sensibility; with lots of samples, on the fly looping and hip breakdowns. There was also a strong global feel, at times reminiscent of the great African Jazz-Funk players. Finally, there was the ever present Afro-Cuban ostinato, the promise of the tumabo and montuno, that was sometimes only hinted at and other times explored in full.
How funky was this gig? Well, Sosa managed to get a Hong Kong audience to clap, in rounds, a 6/8 feel over a 4/4 funk groove. He managed, on a Friday night, to get a (usually sedate) local Jazz crowd to stand as one, dancing and clapping along to the final rousing number in the main set. This was seriously groovy stuff! Sosa was always at the centre of the fun, as ringmaster, high priest and orchestrator – with his band supporting, responding and filling out every twist and turn.
I was won over and left wondering if that might have been the best Jazz gig I’ve seen in Hong Kong. Omar Sosa and his group inhabited a very cool niche, somewhere between John Scofield’s Uberjam funk and Manu Dibangu’s pan-African soul. But, they made that niche all their own with smart, inventive and downright audacious playing. Wonderful stuff!
[tags] Hong Kong Arts Festival, Omar Sosa [/tags]