Paolo Fresu & Omar Sosa, Alma (featuring Jaques Morelenbaum)
Sublime tonal alchemy
Cuba-born, Barcelona-based pianist/keyboardist Omar Sosa and Italian trumpeter/flugelhornist Paolo Fresu may hail from very different worlds, but their egoless convergence makes for sublime tonal alchemy on their duo album, Alma (soul in Spanish). The 12-tune lyrical collection plays out in pockets of calming sonics and gentle grooves, such as on the pensive “Inverno Grigio” and the placid “Old D Blues.” Sosa’s flair for complementing his keyboard work with spicy African percussion and Fresu’s whimsical horn effects give some tunes a zesty flavor, such as on Sosa’s sprightly “Angustia” and Fresu’s radiant beauty “S’Inguldu,” which also features guest cellist Jaques Morelenbaum. The storied Brazilian conductor/arranger/producer – who worked closely with such all-stars as Antonio Carlos Jobim, Caetano Veloso, Gilbertro Gil and Carlinhos Brown – sits in on four tunes, including Sosa and Fresu’s buoyant read of Paul Simon’s “Under African Skies” from Graceland. The rendition is a highlight, as Fresu whistles and trumpets the theme while Sosa sings wordless vocals and snaps his fingers. Among one of the best new jazz releases of early 2012, Alma captures the imaginative collaborative spirit of two simpatico soul mates.