This 2005 release is an achingly beautiful collection, delivering a poignant, introspective overview of the artist’s impressive works. Showcasing his exceptional pianistic and compositional talents and featuring performances by reedman Sheldon Brown, flautist John Calloway, the timbal of Orestes Vilato, the lush string section of violinist/violist Gerardo Cilvetti and cellist Daniel Khachatrian, and the divine vocals of Anasticia Newkirk and Maria Marquez, Sosa clearly has a gift for arranging. It’s hard to believe these tracks are culled from four of the artist’s previous releases, so fresh sounding is this CD one would take it for a whole new project.
Of the ten tracks, eight were taken from his large-ensemble World/Jazz Roots Trilogy "Free Roots", "Spirit of the Roots" and "Bembon", and two from his groundbreaking "Prietos" CD, inspired by the music of the Gnawa culture of North Africa. Ballads forms an imperceptible seam between these sessions, created through the use of the masterful production talents of Bob Katz and demonstrating a deeply thoughtful approach to making a compilation CD work successfully.
Sosa, who now calls America home, is a world-class pianist and composer who was born and raised in Cuba, and heavily influenced by the music native to that colourful nation. He studied percussion as a child with a focusing on marimba, but soon discovered his true love when introduced to the piano, and shortly thereafter the jazz music of the masters. His style is uniquely his own, but reveals the influences of great American jazz artists such as Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal, Keith Jarrett, et al, and the masters of his native country such as Chucho Valdez, Emiliano Salvador, Frank Emilio Flynn and others, as well as pop singers Xiomara Laugart and Vicente Feliu, whom he worked with in Cuba. He went on to conduct a highly creative and notable career fusing the two art forms, building a long list of credits and awards that include a Latin Grammy and a Grammy Award nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album, as well as the award for Afro-Caribbean Jazz Album of the Year from the Jazz Journalists Association in New York. He recently received a nomination for Latin Jazz Album of the Year by the same prestigious awards group. Sosa’s ever-expanding discography now numbers fourteen releases, three of which are stunning solo piano outings.
Ballads is as vital a recording as any to ever hit the market, but requires a warning.... should you play this CD on your stereo, you’ll not want to listen to another piece of music for several hours, so hauntingly resonant is the aural experience that deeply touches the heart.