Omar Sosa has gained fame for his stirring piano solos, his mastery of polyrhythms, and his willingness to add rap and hip-hop to his Afro-Cuban jazz music. Ballads is quite a bit different. Drawn from four of his CDs (Free Roots, Spirit of the Roots, Bembon, and Prietos), the previously released music is all taken at slow tempos. Most of the ten numbers are moody, a bit introspective, and thoughtful, although there is some heat to be experienced on a few performances. The personnel and instrumentation change from cut to cut, with Sheldon Brown's reeds (particularly on bass clarinet) being a major asset, María Márquez contributing a haunting vocal on "Fragile," and two strings being utilized on a pair of numbers. Throughout, Sosa sounds restrained but powerful, very much in control of this lyrical music. Although it only shows one side of him, Ballads serves as a solid introduction to Omar Sosa.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow