Omar Sosa joins Barbary Coast for world jazz performance
- Submitted by: manso
- Editorial Articles
- 02 / 11 / 2011
The Dartmouth Staff. Renowned jazz pianist and composer Omar Sosa will join the Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble in Spaulding Auditorium on Saturday for the group’s 33rd annual Winter Carnival concert, “Global Jazz: Coast Goes Latin.”
Born in Camaguey, Cuba, Sosa discovered his love for piano while attending the National Music School of Havana. Sosa had first studied percussion but became interested in piano after trying the instrument for fun one day, he said in an interview with The Dartmouth.
“Someone else was using the vibraphone,” Sosa said. “So I looked around, saw a piano and began to play.”
According to Sosa, developing piano skills helped him mature as a composer.
“It’s easier to write when you play piano because you can understand the harmonic world of the whole orchestra,” Sosa explained.
Sosa added that his compositional process is heavily influenced by his emotions.
“I feel a pain when I compose,” Sosa said. “I feel a lot of anxiety, and then I translate those feelings into musical notations.”
Along with his renown as a composer, Sosa has earned acclaim as a pianist, arranger and percussionist. He has recorded over 20 albums and received many accolades, including three Grammy nominations and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Smithsonian Institution. Sosa currently lives in Barcelona and performs internationally in over 150 concerts each year.
This weekend, Sosa will join the Barbary Coast, a Hopkins Center ensemble composed of almost 20 student musicians, in a concert that will mark his second show on the Spaulding stage. In 2008, he completed a residency at Dartmouth, performing at the Hopkins Center with his Afreecanos Quartet — an group consisting of Sosa, a bassist, a percussionist and a vocalist.
When visiting the College in 2008, Sosa sat in on a world music class taught by former music professor Tim Eriksen. Even now, Sosa remembers being very impressed with the class, particularly when Eriksen and his students began to hum an Eastern tune.
“I was in shock,” Sosa said. “I wish all schools in the world had a class like that.”
Four weeks after his residency, Sosa invited Eriksen to collaborate with him on a Blue Note Records album titled “Across the Divide,” which later earned two Grammy nominations.
“[Dartmouth] is special for me because one of my more acclaimed records began right here,” Sosa said. “I have to say thank you to this place.”
Don Glasgo, director of the Barbary Coast, said the inspiration for “Global Jazz” came when Sosa led a workshop with Barbary Coast as part of his residency at Dartmouth.
The members of Barbary Coast have been working on Sosa’s pieces all term. Although many of his works were originally written for small groups of musicians, Glasgo arranged the pieces for the larger student ensemble.
“Don did amazing work to rearrange the music to make it feasible,” Sosa said. “He glued in all of the elements of the music to make a big band arrangement.”
Despite the extensive planning involved, Glasgo said he will not choose the final program until just before Saturday’s concert.
“Some pieces will work, and others won’t,” Glasgo said. “Nothing is predictable or set in stone.”
The student musicians will rehearse with Glasgo and Sosa every night this week, engaging in what Glasgo described as “an open, collaborative process” in which there is no formal rehearsal agenda.
“The process takes you where you need to go next,” Glasgo said. “Our goal is to put on the best concert we can have on Saturday — but how that flows, we don’t know yet.”
Sosa said that his main goal for the concert is to challenge Dartmouth musicians by introducing them to a new, unfamiliar type of music.
Glasgo added that it will allow students who do not plan to pursue careers in music to put on a show of professional caliber.
Sosa expresed a desire to expand the program beyond Dartmouth, introducing it to other universities.
For now though, Sosa is content to put on a memorable show Saturday night, he said.
“I hope the audience will be moved by the experience and that the ensemble will play so that they touch people’s spirits — and get a little groove on, too,” Sosa said.
“Global Jazz” will be performed Saturday, Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium.