JazzTimes (p.68) - "TALES FROM THE EARTH finds Sosa spending time not only on the piano bench but also on marimba and vibes, bringing a bit of Cuba back to the African continent, and vice versa."
Generalized as Latin jazz performers, Mark Weinstein and Omar Sosa have made great inroads with their individual groups in defining a new world order of ethnic fusion hierarchy. Weinstein's concert, alto or bass flute-playing must be regarded as that coming of age from a new generation influenced by Johnny Pacheco and Hubert Laws, while pianist Sosa has gone far beyond the realm of his influences and contemporaries in Afro-Cuban based music. Tales from the Earth provides them with a completely different forum of African-based sounds surrounded by their specific tastes in folkloric music, a tribal fusion of village chanting fused with jazz improvisation that is infectious beyond belief, and cause for mass rejoicing. Weinstein's flute is more pronounced, bold, and expressive, where surprisingly, Sosa plays very little piano, instead concentrating on marimba. vibraphone, and hand percussion for this date. With the wooden balafon of the refined and talented Aly Keita, the deft guitar playing of Jean-Paul Bourelly, Polish bassist Stanislou Michalak, contemporary jazz drummer Marcus Gilmore and African vocalists/percussionists Aho Luc Nicaise or Mathias Agbokou, this group is a potent multi-cultural force unlike any other band Weinstein or Sosa have ever fronted. The vocal aspect of these tracks emphasizes the organic and ritualistic base of living, from the chanted "Invocation," through the 6/8 dance of "Walking Song," the churning rhythms in muted volume of the African-influenced "River Crossing," or Weinstein's choppy flute in call and response with the singers and percussionists during "Spirit Messenger." Nicaise and Agbokou are fervent in their ability to bond traditional elements with modern-day instrumentation, a transfixing aspect of this music that has a universal appeal. The wooden tones of the balafon and marimba solidify the brown shades of this music, spurring on the three hand drummers and Gilmore to take primal precepts into the present era of jazz-influenced, non-swing music. The happy 6/8 bass derived groove of "Children at Play," the loose "Men's Talk," more spatial "Elders Speak," or Bourelly's slower, two-minute feature "Praise" gives this single-minded feeling of freedom room to breathe in an area more akin to jazz. But the group also reverts to childlike innocence during the chiming "Flirtation," has a contemporary moment in 4/4 beat time on "Forest Journey," and takes up funk on the spirit song "Celebration," where Sosa's piano is finally heard. The whole of the recording -- which deserves a listen from start to finish -- tells a complete story, from the shimmering intro balafon feature "Sunrise" to the closer "Gratitude" with its informal low-octave wooden groove and Sosa's probing piano. It is the high-level musicianship, and the cohesive way they play together that mark this project as special. Certainly Mark Weinstein has never played more inspired music, with wit, depth, and soul, not to mention great distinction. Sosa's fans will be pleased to hear his sensitivity on vibes and marimba is equal to his piano playing, and is another feather in the cap of this emergent great musician that everyone should be paying close attention to. Few recordings exude this much joy, enthusiasm, and authenticity, not to mention it was a meeting of world music minds recorded at a studio in Berlin, Germany where according to Weinstein, housed the information ministry that put in motion the slaughtering of thousands of Jewish people. In many ways a tonic and healing force for those untoward deeds, Weinstein, Sosa, and friends have created the ultimate world music dialect the planet should easily embrace as a tour de force recording, an important item in the decade of the 2000s.