Review: Omar Sosa and Ibrahim Maalouf - Glasgow Old Fruitmarket

“WE’RE here to play music, not to talk,” declared Omar Sosa, who took a break from leading his powerful Afreecanos Quintet to dedicate their performance to the late Billy Kelly, the promoter who first brought the Cuban pianist to Scotland.

So play they did... and how, the colourfully robed Sosa directing animatedly from his grand piano and synthesiser, as he and fellow-Cuban reedsman Leandro Saint-Hill, German trumpeter Joo Kraus, Mozambiquan bassist Childo Tomas and New York drummer Marque Gilmore created a near-continuous musical tableau vivant ranging exuberantly between Latin America and the African mother lode.

Against a backdrop of electronic twitterings, snatches of pre-recorded speech and jungle cries, Sosa alternated spare keyboard phrasing with extravagant ripples, occasional moments of languor, and dramatically stabbing chords. There was fine belling or rasping, muted trumpet work from Kraus, while Saint-Hill was similarly eloquent on saxes and flute and ultimately sang the proceedings towards an unexpectedly mellow conclusion.

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For an encore, the ecstatically beaming Sosa embarked on a lyrical but wonderfully wayward piano excursion with drummer Gilmore which climaxed in a classically rhapsodic flourish.

Ibrahim Maalouf provided perhaps more of a contrast to this tropical thunder than planned, as the Lebanese trumpeter arrived minus most of his band owing to airport delays. In pared-down duet with guitarist François Delporte, Maalouf’s performance of just three Arabic sounding and rich-toned numbers, had a cinematic quality, particularly the melancholy lyricism of Beirut in evoking his civil-war ravaged hometown.

Rating: *****