Ceremony is a major new project, the fruit of pianist-composer Omar Sosa’s first big-band collaboration with composer-arranger-cellist Jaques Morelenbaum, Hamburg’s 18–piece NDR Bigband (North German Radio / Norddeutscher Rundfunk), and the Omar Sosa Quartet, featuring Julio Barreto (drums, Cuba), Childo Tomas (electric bass, Mozambique), and Marcos Ilukán (Afro-Cuban percussion, Cuba). Sosa himself plays piano and marimba.
Recorded in two sessions (2007 and 2008) at NDR’s Hamburg studios, under the direction of Morelenbuam and Sosa, Ceremony features Morelenbaum’s brilliant arrangements of selections from Omar’s Spirit Of The Roots (1999), Bembón (2000), and Afreecanos (2009) CDs—together with two new Sosa offerings, “Llegada Con Elegba” (the introductory track) and “Salida Con Elegba” (the closing piece).
Rooted in the Quartet’s Afro-Cuban percussive traditions, Sosa’s finely textured compositions enable Morelenbaum to summon forth a broad palette of sounds, fully mobilizing the NDR Bigband’s sonic potential and its brilliant soloists, while leaving ample space for Sosa’s own luminous improvisations.
Ceremony takes something of the structure of a sacred batá ceremony, invoking a panoply of Yoruba deities, while also delving into the Cuban son, danzón, and cha-cha-cha. Reflecting Sosa’s own spiritual grounding, Ceremony opens in sacramental veneration of Elegba, the divine messenger and guardian spirit, the all-powerful medium and diviner of human fate. “Changó En Esmeraldas” is an extended tribute to the deity of thunder and lightning, fire and moral retribution, and a reflection upon Sosa’s musical sojourn in the Afro-Ecuadorian community of Esmeraldas. “Yemaya En Agua Larga” honors the great mother and goddess of the sea, the moon, creation, and female mystery. In keeping with Yoruba tradition, Ceremony exits with a final ritual salutation to Elegba.
Ceremony acknowledges the majesty of the legendary Afro-Cuban big bands of Frank “Machito” Grillo, Chico O’Farrill, and Dizzy Gillespie, while extending those revered traditions in a contemporary salute to the expansive universe of world jazz, wherein Sosa himself continues to reign as a joyous, generous, abundant, and essential creative spirit.
Ceremony grew out of a conversation with Hamburg producer Stefan Gerdes of NDR, who brokered the connection with Brazil’s Morelenbaum, who is much sought after as an arranger, reflecting his signal work with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Cesária Evora, and Mariza, among many others.
The NDR Bigband is an ensemble of accomplished soloists whose talents have been highlighted through the work of such noted arrangers as Steve Gray, Colin Towns, and Michael Gibbs. Over the years, the NDR Bigband’s artistic collaborations have comprised a virtual “Who’s Who” of world jazz: including Chet Baker, Paquito D’Rivera, Pee Wee Ellis, Joe Gallardo, Lionel Hampton, Dave Holland, Abdullah Ibrahim, Pat Metheny, Joe Pass, Maria Schneider, Wayne Shorter, Oscar Brown, Jr., Al Jarreau, and Bobby McFerrin.