Jazz CD Reviews

Arturo O’Farrill and The Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra – Final Night At Birdland – Zoho Records

A rip roaring closing to an important tradition.

Published on August 2, 2013

Arturo O’Farrill and The Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra – Final Night At Birdland – Zoho Records ZM201311, 63:26 [8/13/13] ****:

(Arturo O’Farrill – piano/musical director; John Walsh, Jim Seeley, Pete Nater, Matt Hilgenberg – trumpets; Gary Valente, Sam Burtis, Kajiwara Tokunori, Jack Jeffers – trombones; David Bixler, Todd Bashore – alto saxophones; Peter Brainin, Jed Levy – tenor saxophones; Maximilian Schweiger – baritone saxophone; Gregg August – bass; Vince Cherico – drums; Tony Rosa – congas; Joe Gonzalez – bongo & bell; Special guests: Adam O’Farrill – trumpet; Zachary O’Farrill – drums; Michel Herrera – alto saxophone)

The name Chico O’Farrill is recalled with reverence as one of the prime movers of Afro-Cuban jazz of the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. Chico’s son, Arturo, honors his father’s name by playing his music or compositions closely associated with him, through a jazz orchestra that was in residence at Birdland each Sunday night for over thirteen years. This release was recorded live at Birdland on June 26, 2011 and was the final performance of the band at that location.

The electricity generated by a band that plays Afro-Cuban/Latin jazz is palpable and this band plays its heart out and leaves nothing on the table. Also driving this outing is the stylish rhythmic energy behind the band with Tony Rosa on congas, Joe Gonzalez on bongos, and the two drummers: Vince Cherico and Zachary O’Farrill. Opening with a Chico O’Farrill tune called “Three Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods”; the band offers a strong opening introduction and then trumpeter Jim Seeley takes up the cause in his own unique style. Each selection has its internal dynamic that plays out, but “Delirio” offers some swelling brass lines that really define the piece.

As for “Tanga Suite” which was originally commissioned for the Mario Bauza Orchestra, this band’s familiarity with the work and its nuances gives it a different groove throughout the compositions many movements. “Havana Blues” has always been a fan favorite because it has an easy to appreciate melodic line which gives the band the opportunity to build the necessary inner power to which the listening audience gravitates. The long closing track which has an equally long title “Fathers And Sons, From Havana to New York and Back Again” is a musical story that pays tribute to Cuban artistic richness and appetite, which celebrates tradition filled with the knowledge that young musicians will carry it on. This is a rip-roaring closing to an important tradition.

TrackList: Introduction; Three Afro Cuban Jazz Moods; Calediscopico; Pensativo; Exuberante; Delirio; Tanga Suite; Cuban Lullabye; Mambo; Cuban Ritual; Bolero; Rumba Abierta; Havana Blues; Father And Sons, From Havana To New York And Back Again

—Pierre Giroux




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