Paolo Fresu and Omar Sosa ‘Eros’ (Bonsai Music) 3/5

Paolo-Fresu-Omar-Sosa“Eros” is a new work by acclaimed Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu and Cuban pianist Omar Sosa. The follow-up to the duo’s successful release “Alma”, the new album is a conceptual set of tunes, composed around the sacred emotional ideal that leads beauty towards the divine. True to the duo’s past history, the music enjoys a refined sensitivity and is articulately produced. Based around the two musician’s instruments, the vocals, strings, samples and percussion are interwoven and combined, making for a lush, slightly exotic sound that plays easily on the ears.
Listening to “Eros” as a whole, there are some lovely moments to enjoy, with the general feel being one of laid-back musical sensuality. Yet as much as I’d like to describe it as ‘divinely beautiful music’, at times I can’t stop my thoughts from slipping into a more critical phrase; ‘Smooth jazz for lovers’. As good as some of the tunes undoubtedly are, for this listener it doesn’t reach any spiritual depths of love and associated themes, but it does offer a calming, thoughtful and peaceful set of tunes that can be enjoyed for what they are, even if they’re not perhaps as inspiring as one might have wished for.

The album begins with its strongest track, a wonderful interpretation of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”. Featuring Maghreb singer Natacha Atlas, her gorgeous vocals bring a fresh, colourful and uplifting presence to the tune. There’s such a cool, mesmeric vibe to the production that it successfully draws the listener in to its subtle groove. The arrangements and use of strings are at times stunning throughout this recording. Jacques Morelenabum features on cello, along with Quartetto Alborada, comprising of two violins, viola and cello. There are some wonderful moments where the strings are combined with piano, Fender Rhodes, samplers, effects and percussion, all coming together to create a unique landscape of sound. None more so than on the track “What Is Inside”, an excellent piece of music. The gorgeous, thought provoking “What Lies Ahead”, written by Peter Gabriel and his son Isaac, is performed close to its original form with the addition of Piero Salvatori’s violin. Peter Gabriel listened to the song and gave his consent for its release, in spite of the fact the song will most likely be included on his own new record. The sonic soundscapes offer a relaxing and welcome rest bite from the usual hurly-burly of daily life, with “Zeus’ Desires”, “My Soul, My Spirit”, and “Eros Mediterraneo” standing out as particularly enjoyable pieces of well-crafted music. I also really liked the hidden track at the end of the album, “Kypris”. It’s well worth waiting for this track as it has a slightly different feel to the other tunes, and for me does in fact offer more to the listener than some of the other music heard on the album.

“Eros” is beautifully produced and has some excellent moments, but for this listener doesn’t reach the heights I had hoped for. It does have some lovely infectious grooves and the duo’s intelligent use of their instruments combined with samples, noises and strings does work really well, even if a handful of the tunes sound somewhat superfluous to the proceedings. Enjoy it for what it is, an easy-listening, laid-back and romantically hued album.

Mike Gates

Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu teams up here with Cuban pianist (but British based) Omar Sosa for an album that is in some ways a musical trip back in time to the early 1990s. There is an interesting blend of influences that includes Arabic classical, Latin, western classical and jazz, with late period Miles Davis hovering in the background. Adding to the mix are the vocals of London-based, but of Egyptian descent vocalist Natasha Atlas, the cello accompaniment of Brazilian musician Jacques Morelenbaum (who has regularly been the arranger for Caetano Veloso among others), and the added strings of Quartetto Alborada.
At first, the music seems fixed in both time and mode, but there are interesting things happening musically just below the surface as on, ‘Eros Mediterraneo’, which features a marvellous duet nad interplay between Morelenbaum and Fresu, with pianist Sosa assisting the Middle Eastern percussion in the background. If only there were more of this fusion of styles. A cover of massive Attack’s, ‘Teardrop’ receives a creative eastern-flavoured makeover with the added Arabic song, ‘Ya habibi’, and the vocals of Atlas most certainly blend in well here. On the Sosa composition, ‘Brezza del verano’, the layered keyboards of the pianist and ascending trumpet work well in tandem, and the use of strings creates an altogether dramatic backdrop.

At best this album is atmospheric, but overall does not rise above a certain level and is just a tad too laid back for this writer, with not enough of the Middle Eastern content that would have catapulted the album into a different stratosphere. That said, there is no denying either the musicianship, or melodicism of the music and fans of the ‘Tutu’ and ‘Amandla’ albums will feel very much at home here. For fans of album cover design, this one come across as an in-between of a classic ECM cover with the Rolling Stones lips logo.

Tim Stenhouse