Omar Sosa, a Cuban pianist from the Bay Area, is all long robes and Santeria candles as he pursues a modern fusion informed by jazz, Afro-Latin roots and hip-hop culture. Brooklyn flutist Mark Weinstein has focused on postbop and Brazilian jazz on recent discs, each of which includes a fragment of Hebrew scripture on the sleeve. The Hebrew appears again on Tales from the Earth, a new collaboration that exudes the mystery and authentic street energy of Afro-Cuban music while reconciling the idiosyncrasies of both coleaders.
In 1967, when Sosa was two, Weinstein (then a trombonist) recorded Cuban Roots, an influential session with Chick Corea. Soon after his mid-’90s comeback as a flutist, Weinstein offered Cuban Roots Revisited, featuring Sosa. Tales is a reunion, but here, in a first, Sosa plays mallets. He locks in layered marimba patterns to complement Aly Keita’s balafon, and uses vibraphone and minimal piano for harmonic color and subtle solo inflection. Drummer Marque Gilmore (of Sosa’s Afreecanos Quartet) builds a bridge from traditional rhythm to splintery, cutting-edge beat-making, and bassist Stanislou Michalak keeps his lines fittingly sparse.
Weinstein’s entrancing alto and bass flute work adds a sonorous darkness on several tracks, balancing the lively percussion and vocal incantations of Aho Luc Nicaise and Mathias Agbokou. Tales is also stamped with the earthy, stinging guitar of coproducer Jean Paul Bourelly, whose riffing on “Children at Play” sounds like a guimbri, straight out of Africa.