Omar Sosa (born April 10, 1965, in Camagüey, Cuba) is a composer, bandleader, and jazz pianist. Sosa began studying marimba at age eight, then switched to piano at the Escuela Nacional de Musica in Havana, where he studied jazz. Sosa moved to Quito, Ecuador, in 1993, then San Francisco, California, in 1995. In San Francisco he became deeply involved in the local Latin jazz scene and began a long collaboration with percussionist John Santos. He also made a series of recordings with producer Greg Landau, including the ground-breaking Oaktown Irawo, featuring Tower of Power drummer Dave Garibaldi, Cuban saxophonist Yosvany Terry and Cuban percussionist Jesus Diaz. Sosa and Landau recorded with Carlos "Patato" Valdes and Pancho Quinto and worked on several film scores. Around 1999 Sosa moved to Barcelona, Spain.
Omar Sosa is one of the most versatile jazz artists on the scene today: composer, arranger, producer, pianist, percussionist, and bandleader. He fuses a wide range of world music and electronic elements with his native Afro-Cuban roots to create a fresh and original urban sound – all with a Latin jazz heart. On stage, Mr. Sosa is a charismatic figure, inspiring his fellow musicians with his dynamic playing and improvisational approach to the music – an approach full of raw emotional power and humor. Mr. Sosa invariably inspires audiences to their feet and to join him in chorus vocals, heightening the sense of spontaneity and connection.
Mr. Sosa's latest CD on Otá Records, Mulatos , features Latin jazz master Paquito D'Rivera on clarinet. The recording is an adventurous, finely wrought, and wholly delightful mélange of Cuban jazz, Latin dance grooves, French chanson, North African trance music, and European folk. It dances with rhythmic inspirations of Indian tabla, jazz drums, and studio mixing. Also featured is the delicate voice of the Arabic lute, the oud, and the composer himself on marimba. “Mulatos” was recently nominated for Latin Jazz Album of the Year by the NYC-based Jazz Journalists Association.
Mr. Sosa's music is a unique style of Afro-Cuban jazz, and while it is rooted in the folkloric traditions of the African Diaspora, he always takes an exploratory approach – never one to let orthodoxy stand in the way of his pursuit of freedom. Sosa offers a joyful mix of jazz and Afro-Caribbean rhythms, combining percussive forays inside the piano and a series of electronic effects with his inspired, passionate playing at the keyboard. His tempos are fluid, and his moods change freely. Sosa revels in the irresistible clave grooves of Latin jazz, while adding experimental touches to keep his listeners on their toes.
Omar Sosa has released 15 recordings on the Oakland-based Otá Records label since 1997, including 2002's GRAMMY-nominated Sentir . He performed recently with his Octet at the opening of Carnegie Hall's new Zankel Hall, about which Alex Ross of The New Yorker remarked that Sosa has “a ferocious flair for rhythm and a keen musical wit”. Composer John Adams, who curated the opening of Carnegie Hall's new venue, commented that “Sosa is a deeply creative musician with an extraordinary harmonic sense. His piano playing is sui generis : It has obvious roots in Cuban music, but he's taken his approach to the keyboard into completely new regions”. And Don Heckman of The Los Angeles Times recently wrote “Sosa's vision of contemporary jazz reaches across every imaginable boundary”. For more information, please visit www.melodia.com .
Omar Sosa was nominated in 2003 for a BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music in the ‘Americas' category, along with Ibrahim Ferrer, Caetano Veloso, and Os Tribalistas. He began 2004 with the debut of his first work for symphony orchestra, entitled From Our Mother , performed at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland by the Oakland East Bay Symphony under the direction of Michael Morgan. The 45-minute work in three movements, which combines folkloric elements from Cuba, Venezuela, and Ecuador with modern jazz harmonies, was co-commissioned by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and the Oakland East Bay Symphony, with partial funding from the Rockefeller Foundation.