Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca should please not only the contemporary modern jazz crowd and Latin jazz lovers, but those who enjoy spirit and soul in their music. Blessed with a craftsman's touch and good taste that keep the proceedings ultra-melodic, Fonseca plays original music that hints at his folkloric heritage, but speaks more directly to a budding concept that suggests an attractive new voice about to fully emerge. Many of the selections on Akokan (Heart) feature a trio plus percussionist, while others add woodwind player Javier Zalba, who is a nice second front-line voice in the mix. On this set that is not necessarily Afro-Cuban music per se, though recorded at the legendary Egrem Studios in Havana, Fonseca performs "Bulgarian" with Zalba's deep clarinet in 7/8 time; cites saints, science, and Mother Earth as inspiration for "Siete Potencias" alongside vocalist Mayra Andrade; adopts a delicate touch with Zalba's flute during "La Flor Que No Cuidé"; and welcomes Raul Midón to sing English lyrics for the forgiveness tune "Everyone Deserves a Second Chance." A wonderful piano player whose soul is more important than notes, Fonseca offers lovely themes in the funky 6/8 invocation "Lo Que Me Hace Vivir" and the impressive, faster, repeating phrases of "Lento y Despacio" as if it were child's play. The term wonderful might be used too much about music, but this program is truly wondrous, well performed and unique unto itself. If Omar Sosa, Fahir Atakoglu, Michel Camilo, Robert Glasper, and Aaron Parks are some of your favorite contemporary pianists, Roberto Fonseca should join their ranks.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos