First Listen: Omar Sosa, 'Ile'

Omar Sosa's new album, Ile, comes out March 10. (Courtesy of the artist)
Omar Sosa's new album, Ile, comes out March 10. (Courtesy of the artist)

Cuban-born pianist and composer Omar Sosa has carved out a place for himself in the musical landscape that's equal parts musical and spiritual. His playing and his songs are saturated with the beauty and power of West African music dedicated to Yoruba deities, and yet an unmistakable reverence for jazz pervades every note.

Sosa's latest album, Ile, doesn't disappoint. The title is the Lucumí word for "home," and it accurately reflects a homecoming of sorts, back to the kind of straight-ahead Afro-Cuban jazz that he started out playing. The album features the core of the working group with which he travels the world, his Quarteto Afro Cubano.

Yet even when he goes home, Sosa brings along the influences he's picked up during his travels: The songs sway from clever, clave-based Latin jazz to Lucumí chants to short interludes with distinct down-tempo grooves.

When he performs live, Sosa makes a point to prepare the stage and his space for any spiritual visitations that might take place in him or the audience. It's far from a cheesy, halfhearted nod to ancient gods. Ask anyone who's been to one of his shows: If the spirits speak to anyone, it's Omar Sosa.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.