Sunday, May 1, 2011


Pianist Omar Sosa
For the past half hour, I’ve searched my dictionary for the perfect adjective to describe Omar Sosa Afreecanos Quartet’s show last night at the Jazz Café. I’ve had no luck so far. Those overused adjectives--wonderful, terrific, outstanding, amazing, magnificent and remarkable— are inadequate. Sosa’s quartet had a lot of things happening on the stage at the same time. The sets were mind-boggling.

The Jazz Café is the right place to hear live jazz. People pay good money to hear top national acts. At other jazz clubs in Detroit, people go to drink, to eat and to socialize. They could care less about the music. That’s not the case at the Jazz Café. The audience respect the musicians and the bands. And last night the crowd gave Sosa’s band a lot of love.

The first set began when Sosa walked on the bandstand decked out in a bright red African getup. Sosa played a brief solo. The guitarist Childo Tomas, saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum and drummer Marque Gilmore joined him.The quartet mixed Afro-Cuban,  jazz, world music, Latin jazz, classical and funk music. If that wasn’t enough, they used various sound effects, too. I even noticed some elements of smooth jazz during Apfelbaum’s first solo. One unforgettable moment occurred when Tomas spoke Spanish and Yoruba while Sosa improvised.

Sosa hogged most of first set. He bounced from the piano to the Fender Rohdes with energy and excitement of hip-hop deejay. At one point, he put the microphone close to his face. Then he slapped his jaws as if they were percussions. Sosa would’ve sound good beating his chest. On some of his solos, Sosa also mimicked the way the late Don Pullen’s right hand used to move along the piano keys like a rolling pin.

The second set had a more avant-garde jazz and funk feel. More people showed up. I guess they saw the Music Hall rocking and wanted to know why. The set belonged to Apfelbaum. He played the tenor, the soprano, the flute and several odd-looking instruments. Apfelbaum improvising was precise as a diamond cutter. Midway, through the set Apfelbaum played the tenor and the soprano simultaneously. After that stunt, Sosa hugged him. The boss validating you on the spot is a sign you kicked ass.

The audience gave Omar Sosa’s Afreecanos Quartet a well-deserved ovation. And the guys seated near the stage begged for a third set. Sosa was under contract for only two, but he agreed to an encore. Had he not a riot would’ve ensued. A lady seated near the rear of the club yelled: “Play something soft”! I wondered if Sosa could. He played a ballad featured on his first album softly as an ant gliding across a piece of cotton. Omar Sosa’s Afreecanos Quartet’s show was a memorable conclusion to the Jazz Café’s 2010-2011 jazz series.
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