While the connection between Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu was established back in 2006, their partnership truly blossomed with Alma (Ota Music, 2012), a beauty of an album with a soft sell approach. That record—quite possibly the most moving item in either man's discography—prioritized heart over all else, and this follow-up date follows suit.
Alma is a collaboration between six-time GRAMMY's-nominated Cuban composer and pianist Omar Sosa and celebrated Italian trumpet and flugelhorn player Paolo Fresu, with guest cello contributions on four tracks by noted Brazilian conductor, arranger, producer and cellist Jaques Morelenbaum. The compositions are all written by Omar Sosa and Paolo Fresu, except for Under African Skies , a version of the popular track from Paul Simon's Graceland. The music on Alma (soul) is generally melodic and medium-paced, except for a fiery version of Omar s composition Angustia. Fresu's flugelhorn work is sweet and warm and the rich and playful musical connection between Fresu and Sosa is evident throughout the recording.
…That Gianfranco Cabbidu’s and Paolo Fresu’s vision has worked has already been shown by the project’s great international success. The musicians have performed not only in Italy, France, and Spain; they have traveled to Argentina and Brazil. Occasionally they have been supported by musicians like Nguyen Le. Although this “positively one-time” project has already been performed again and again over the last six years, virtually every performance is a new premiere, a new festival of music. It is also a reunion, since the musicians seldom see each other outside of the concerts. So this album is witness to a rare moment, one which the musicians on stage share with their audience. It is witness also to a living culture in search of its own historic roots far outside today’s heavy-trodden musical pathways as it travels on its way to a unified Europe.
Fresu was born in Berchidda, Sardinia. He picked up the trumpet at the age of 11, and played in the band Bernardo de Muro in his home town Berchidda. Fresu graduated from the Conservatory of Cagliari in 1984, in trumpet studies under Enzo Morandini, and attended the University of Musical and performing arts in Bologna. Fresu has taught at the Siena Jazz National Seminars, as well as jazz university courses in Terni, and is the director of Nuoro Jazz Seminars in Nuoro, Italy. Fresu composes music for theatre, poem, dance, radio, television, and film.
Chiaroscuro at once has the feeling of inevitability and a sense of randomness about it, as if it were meant to happen, yet it's such a long shot that it ever did. Towner, the guitarist of the jazz/world/new age outfit Oregon, is an American who celebrated his 70th birthday in the year of this album's release, 2010 – it's his 22nd for ECM. Fresu is an Italian trumpeter, not quite 50, whose only previous ECM connection (among some 300 albums he's appeared on in all) came in 2007 when he worked with pianist/composer Carla Bley on her release The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu.
If Paolo Fresu is quickly becoming one of the most sought after trumpet players it might easily be because he calls to mind a sound that was attributed to Miles Davis’ most famous “electric period”. In reality that aspect of his playing—the hollow and lonesome howl of his horn—is only part of the enormous talent that is Paolo Fresu’s claim to fame. Mr. Fresu has clearly absorbed much of Miles Davis’ aching sound, but he is much less sardonic in his expression; gives less of a feeling of hopelessness even as he sounds melancholic. His powerful and poetic statements on Desertico find the trumpeter in fine voice with his Devil Quartet. On this album Mr. Fresu is most forthright in his playing and he ascends into an almost rarefied realm, especially on the ballads, whether he plays the softer sounding flugelhorn or his strikingly familiar trumpet.