FOLSOM — A musician extraordinaire — composer, arranger, pianist, percussionist, improvisator and communicator — Omar Sosa has performed numerous concerts all around the world. He’s winner of the 10th annual Independent Music Awards in the Jazz Album category and the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the Smithsonian Associates in Washington, D.C., for contribution to the development of Latin jazz in the United States.
Omar Sosa brings his amazing talents to Harris Center for the Arts as part of the Four Slices of Cuba series, a Cuban music festival, on July 18.
His Afro-Cuban based mix of jazz and world music is broadly expressive — full of power and passion, subtlety and grace. Sosa draws from each culture he touches, from the energy and storytelling of hip-hop, the free spirited experimentation of jazz, the heartfelt emotion of an Afro- Ecuadorian choir, the sensuality of popular Cuban music, to the hypnotic trance of Gnawa ritual. The result is a modern, urban music with a Latin jazz heart.
Composer-pianist-bandleader Sosa was born in 1965 in Camagüey, Cuba’s largest inland city. At age 8, Sosa began studying percussion and marimba at the music conservatory in Camagüey; in Havana, as a teenager, he took up piano at the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Música and completed his formal education at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana.
Among his influences, Sosa cites traditional Afro-Cuban music, European classical composers (including Chopin, Bartok and Satie), Monk, Coltrane, Parker, Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Chucho Valdés and the pioneering Cuban jazz group Irakere. Moving in 1993 to Ecuador, Sosa immersed himself in the folkloric traditions of Esmeraldas, the northwest coast region whose African heritage includes the distinctive marimba tradition. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1995 and soon invigorated the Latin jazz scene with his adventurous writing and percussive style. In 1999 Omar relocated to Barcelona.
Sosa’s recording career began in 1997 with the release of his first solo piano recording, “Omar Omar” on the Oakland-based record label, Ot Records, and has continued with the release of multiple CDs as a leader, resulting in five Grammy nominations. These include a 2002 Grammy nomination and Latin Grammy nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album for the CD “Sentir;” a 2005 Grammy nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album for the CD “Mulatos,” featuring Cuban saxophone and clarinet master Paquito D’Rivera; and the two nominations for Across The Divide in 2009. As of 2014, he has a total of more than 20 albums recorded.
Annually performing upwards of 100 concerts on six continents, Sosa has appeared in venues as diverse as the Blue Note (New York, Milan and Tokyo), Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Walker Art Center, the Getty Center, London’s Barbican and Queen Elizabeth Hall, Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall and Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt; festivals including Monterey Jazz, JVC Jazz, Montreal Jazz, Marciac Jazz, North Sea Jazz, Helsinki, Grenoble Jazz, Montreux Jazz, Naples Jazz, Ravenna Jazz, Roma Jazz, Spoletto, WOMAD and Cape Town International Jazz.
Omar Sosa Afro-Cuban Jazz Quartet will perform at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 18. Tickets are priced at $19 to $29 with premium seats available for $39; students with ID pay $12. Purchase tickets online at harriscenter.net or from Harris Center Ticket Office at (916) 608-6888 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and two hours before show time. Parking is included in the price of the ticket. Harris Center is located on the west side of Folsom Lake College campus in Folsom, facing East Bidwell Street.