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Omar Sosa @ VAE

I don’t often get an opportunity to attend live music performances, especially not at a venue as special as the Vermont Arts Exchange in Bennington, Vt. In addition to offering art programs and classes to children and adults in the southwestern Vermont region, the exchange also has a monthly music program with an eclectic lineup of some of the best jazz, classical, and folk performers on tour.

Luckily the amazing Omar Sosa and his group are touring the U.S. and happened to be playing this past Friday at the Cape May Jazz Festival. When arranging their schedule Omar thought, "Vermont, that’s close to New Jersey, isn’t it?" On Saturday, they drove the six hours to Bennington. It was a very sleepy sound check in the afternoon, but by the 7 o'clock performance the group was immaculately dressed in African garb and ready to play.

Sosa, a twice Grammy-nominated musician, is an amazingly gifted and, I think, breath-taking pianist, who along with his quartet seamlessly blends traditional Western instruments with a wide array of African winds and percussion, creating a fresh Afro-Cuban jazz sound. Along with Omar, the equally gifted drummer Julio Barreto dazzled us with his talents. The set reminded me of another of my current favorite musicians, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and it turns out that Julio toured with him for several years. A charming and animated Childo Tomas played bass and m’bira and sang in his native Mozambican language, Ronga. Mola Sylla, of Senegal, made magical sounds with an array of instruments and sang in his language, Wolof.

This was an evening that reminded me of how much music is a language that the whole world understands. Sosa and his group will play D.C.'s Lincoln Theater this Tuesday, April 24th, at 8 pm, a free concert. Go here for more images from Saturday evening's performance.

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