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Omar Sosa at Zankel Hall at Carnegie

Jazz has always been spiritual, related to worship, singing and praying. Shared history and the drums connect jazz with the Caribbean and Africa. The musicians on this JazzSet gather all those qualities into one great concert.

Omar Sosa.

On Sept. 12, 2003, Omar Sosa and his group drew an audience that filled every seat in New York's new Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall. Sosa's band members come from Cuba, Venezuela, Morocco and the United States. The musicians find their common strengths and also respect each other's uniqueness as soloists. Sosa says the condition for everyone is that you must play what you feel.

Omar Sosa was born and raised in Camaguey, Cuba, in the mid-1960s. He studied classical percussion for 15 years in his home city and in Havana. His percussion background explains his amazing touch on piano. Thelonious Monk is his guru; Omar named his first son "Lonious." After residing in Ecuador and San Francisco, among other places, Omar Sosa now lives in Barcelona.

A host of fascinating instruments are onstage, and a piano with a candle on it for Sosa. His musicians enter one at a time -- percussionists first, to invoke the spirits and ancestors; then bass, sax and vocalists; and finally, the pianist. Sosa is dressed, as always, in pure white. With all the players improvising in their musical languages from traditional Caribbean to hip hop, the audience at Zankel Hall becomes part of the show, filling spaces in the music. MC Brutha Los raps an anti-war message that is the dramatic climax of the concert.

The live-to-stereo music mix by Duke Markos is wonderful.


Omar Sosa, piano
Luis Depestre, saxophone
Geoff Brennan, bass
Josh Jones, drums
Gustavo Ovalles, percussion
Martha Gallaraga, Yassir Chadly, MC Brutha Los, vocals

"Monto Blanco"
"Mueete en D" (duet with piano and maracas)


  • Omar Sosa's Web Site
  • Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall

    The original live broadcast of this event was made possible by the members of Jazz 88, WBGO in Newark, NJ; Executive Produce Thurston Briscoe III; and NPR, National Public Radio, Director of Music Benjamin K. Roe.

    Our producer is Josh Jackson.

    Dee Dee Bridgewater recorded by Ginger Bruner at KUNV in Las Vegas. JazzSet's producer is Becca Pulliam.

    Copyright 2007 NPR