Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"In what might be considered a heartfelt ode to Africa, Cuba and America,Grammy-winning pianist/composer, Omar Sosa offers Across The Divide: A Tale Of Rhythm & Ancestry. Both inspired and uplifting it encompasses a "song cycle" that documents the shared rhythms of Sosa's ancestry and Tim Eriksen, a New England ethno-musicologist specializing in native and adopted American music.
The program musically tells of the paths of history towards the present; informed of the Middle Passage slave ships bound for America to the election of Barack Obama, the United States' first African-American president. Blending jazz, folk, song and spoken word, with both acoustic/electronic instruments and technologies, it emphatically embraces the differences and celebrates the similarities of cultures.
Recorded live at New York's Blue Note (with savvy post production sound sculpting), Sosa's sextet presented a thought provoking and entertaining performance. Divergent styles are experienced in "Promised Land" where Eriksen hauntingly sings an 18th century Welsh hymn, better known as "Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah," and still commonly heard in Black churches in the South. His Celtic-tinged voice in contrast with the melody, interspersed with sampled readings from Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. This followed by the exhilarating "Glu-Glu," a dancing instrumental filled with the sounds of chants as Sosa rises with prismatic soloing.
The remaining tracks move between equally eclectic shores. "Gabriel's Trumpet" a mid-19th century tune from Maine, is reborn as American folklore meets Afro-Cubano; Eriksen's rural dialect meshed comfortably within the soulful, jazzed gospel groove. The stirringly poignant "Across Africa" pieces are encapsulated in a rain forest of sounds including piano, flute, and electronica such as the sampled voices of Sosa's children.
Sosa, Eriksen and cast of other talents unveil a place where the banjo is at peace with the saxophone, the piano is kin to kalimba, disparate languages are translated, and music across varied borders finds commonality. Another profound recording by the continually searching Omar Sosa." -AllAboutJazz
JazzTimes (p.68) - "[I]ts focus on ancestry covers a great deal of ground both instrumentally and vocally."
Dirty Linen (p.43) - "Langston Hughes' 'Night: Four Songs' is read by drummer Marque Gilmore while Sosa's music and the sextet overlay delicately graceful melodic lines that color in variations on the piano's pearly prelude."
Adapter: Omar Sosa.
Personnel: Omar Sosa (vocals, piano, Fender Rhodes piano, electronics, sampler); Childo Tomas (vocals, electric guitar, bass guitar, kalimba); Tim Eriksen (vocals, banjo, violin); Childo Tomas (vocals, bass guitar, kalimba); Marque Gilmore (vocals, drums); Ramon Diaz (vocals, congas, cajon drums, bata); Román Díaz (vocals, congas); David Gilmore (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Leandro Saint Hill (flute, clarinet, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone); Leandro Saint-Hill (clarinet, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, caxixi).
Audio Mixers: Jon D'Uva; Steven Remote.
Liner Note Author: Jeff Levenson.
Recording information: The Aurasonic Remote Truck (06/12/2008-10/15/2008); The Blue Note, NY (06/12/2008-10/15/2008).
Photographer: Larry Ford.
Arranger: Omar Sosa.
With every recording Omar Sosa releases, his horizons continue to broaden within the context of world ethnic fusion, but with Across the Divide, he's bettered himself yet again. This collection of jazz-influenced, Latin-tinged music crosses the disparate genres of country folk and tribal sounds, recognizing the migration of the banjo from Africa to the Eastern seaboard of America, and percussion from the griot village to the rural Mid-Atlantic. In collaboration with vocalist and story teller Tim Eriksen, Sosa merges rhythm and ancestry via inspiration from Langston Hughes, John Coltrane, King Sunny Ade, Pete Seger, and contemporary bluesman Otis Taylor as popular reference points. More specifically ruminating from Native American and coastal port city themes, Sosa and friends create a new music based on old traditions, adapted and fueled by the spirit of exploration an a caravan-like journey bound only by imagination. The astonishing diversity of this music is established right off the bat during the Welsh hymn "Promised Land," as Sosa's modal two-chord rhythm buoys the Native American-type chanting and spoken words of Eriksen, African-American singing, and a recorded sample of oratory via Hughes. "Gabriel's Trumpet" introduces Eriksen's banjo in a country-blues motif from the great state of Maine, the hymnal, spiritual "Night of the Four Song" comes from the heart of North Carolina via the Chinese wood flute of Leandro Saint-Hill, and the funky but rural "Sugar Baby Blues" is a barn dance straight from ol' West Virginia. Heading much further east, Sosa's two-part "Across Africa" starts in an evocative mood via the pianist's delicate touch, but backward loops indicate the travel plans have changed, leading to the typical Afro-Cuban spirit fans are more accustomed to. The Nigerian highlife beat of "Glu-Glu" is most infectious in 6/8 time, with Saint-Hill's riveting soprano sax providing the energy alongside electric guitarist David Gilmore's slide contribution, while conversely, "Ancestors" provides a brooding discourse from wise elders, an ominous, foreboding cautionary tale through backwards loops, Sosa's piano, the mbira of Childo Thomas, and loosely improvised African vocals. Bassist Tomas and the exceptional electro-acoustic drummer Marque Gilmore firm up the bottom end of these pieces with a ton of dignity, class, and enthusiasm, not to mention a spectrum of rhythms from all over the world. It is nothing less than remarkable how Omar Sosa continues to tap into the broad range of expressionism not limited to his homeland or backyard, unlike just about every folkloric musician who only sticks and stays within a familiar comfort zone. His curiosity broadens all of our horizons, never more so than on this startlingly beautiful project that is highly recommended to one and all. ~ Michael G. Nastos