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Omar Sosa's Chilled-Out Piano

The Afro-Cuban jazz pianist takes a serene approach on his new CD, Calma. (Ota Records)closemore
The Afro-Cuban jazz pianist takes a serene approach on his new CD, Calma. (Ota Records)

(Classical Detours meanders through stylistic byways, exploring new recordings from the fringes of classical music.)

In our on-demand world of a thousand daily distractions, mountains of multi-tasking and various ear-itations, the idea of calm and quiet seems so contrarian, so New Age 1980s. And that's exactly why I welcome the Cuban-born pianist Omar Sosa's new, resolutely chilled-out album Calma.

 (Ota Records)
(Ota Records)

Sosa is often called an Afro-Cuban jazz pianist, but that pigeonhole is far too small for his free-wheeling creativity. In concert I've seen him swing hard one moment then shift to electric keyboard with found-sound samples. He'll dip into straight Cuban son and rumba, morph into virtuosic, Tchaikovskian runs and end by setting an armada of noisy wind-up toys loose onstage.

Sosa the improviser is something to behold. There may not be any wide stylistic back and forth on this new album, but that's just the idea — calmness. Still, the entire performance is improvised, just Sosa at his piano with some subtle electronics, all played straight through in one take.

"I wanted to play from beginning to end without thinking, just feeling where each note would take me, following the voice of my soul," Sosa writes in the disc's liner notes. You can think of it as sophisticated mood music for your entire day. The album opens with "Sunrise" and ends with "Sunset." Along the way there are a few moments where tempos dance, as in the playful "Aguas," (below) complete with sounds of kids splashing.

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Some of Calma's 13 tracks veer perilously close to New Age music, but that's simply Sosa the deep thinker and intensely spiritual man. In concert he drapes red fabric from the piano, and a few candles are usually lit to honor Santeria deities.

So if you need an antidote to an overactive lifestyle, Omar Sosa has a few musical prescriptions.

Have some chill music you'd like to recommend? Leave your soothing suggestions in the comments section.

See the previous "Classical Detours."

Copyright NPR 2016.

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