Latin Jazz Live: Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra

by chip on March 10, 2011

Latin Jazz Live reflects upon the most vital piece of the music’s existence – live performance. Recordings stand as historical milestones, but in a spontaneous and evolving art form like Latin Jazz, live performance in the standard by which musicians are measured. In this recurring series, LJC writers will provide their impressions about Latin Jazz concerts and share the evening’s proceedings with the Latin Jazz community. Comments are welcomed and discussion encouraged as we dig into the live music experience.

Cuba Nola – More than the Spanish Tinge
Arturo O’ Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and special guest, Donald Harrison Jr.
Symphony Space
Saturday February 26, 2011
Performance Review by Tomas Peña

Fresh from a triumphant trip to Cuba, Arturo O’ Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra kicked off their fourth season at Symphony Space with Cuba Nola – More Than the Spanish Tinge, a celebration of the music of New Orleans and Cuba and an exploration of the common roots of jazz.

The performance paired Cuban bandleader, pianist, and composer Arturo O’ Farrill, son of renowned composer, arranger, trumpeter, Chico O’ Farrill (1921-2001) with New Orleanian Donald Harrison, son of the legendary Donald “Big Chief” Harrison Sr. (1933-1965). Harrison (Jr.) is the originator of Nouveau Swing, a style of music that merges acoustic swing with modern R&B, second-line, hip-hop, New Orleans African American roots culture, and reggae.

The show opened with a typical New Orleans second-line, followed by “Iko, Iko,” a catchy Mardi Gras song that made the Top 40 charts in the 60s. Harrison’s biographical “I Am the Big Chief of Congo Square” merged Indian Blues with Latin percussion and O’ Farrill’s “Ruminaciones Sobre Cuba” took the audience on a journey through the history of Afro-Cuban Jazz, from traditional Cuban danzon to a scorching descarga (jam session).

One of the most thrilling numbers was “Fathers And Sons, From Havana To New York And Back,” featuring upstarts trumpeter Adam O’ Farrill and drummer Zack O’ Farrill, who ably held their own with Donald Harrison and trombonist Tokunori Kajiwara.

During the intermission, a short film about the Afro Latin Jazz Academy of Music was presented. Now in its fourth year, the ALJAM is an in-school residency program dedicated to providing instruments and ensemble instruction to under-privileged middle and high school students throughout New York City. The programs overarching mission is to expose students to all types of music in the hope that someday they will choose their own musical path.

The second-half was a showcase for Donald Harrison, who demonstrated that he can play it all – from traditional New Orleans to swing, bop, post-bop, modern, smooth, avant-garde and beyond. “Quantum Leap” demonstrated his ability to combine complex meters without sacrificing swing and groove. “Sandcastle Headhunters” combined the jazz, funk and swing of the Headhunters with the music of Jimi Hendrix. “Sincerely Yours: was a soulful ballad that speaks for its self. O’Farrill’s “Corner of Malecon And Bourbon” combined shades of Louis Armstrong, Charles Mingus and Charlie Parker with elements of ragtime and a driving Cuban montuno. The title piece of the ALJO’S new recording, 40 Acres & A Burro lampoons the 40 Acres and a Mule African Americans were offered after the Civil War and stereotypes of Latinos that exist in American culture. The tune begins with a parody of mariachi music and shades of Stravinsky, then traverses the globe and closes with a sizzling Mozambique as the chorus chants, “La injusticia se acabo” (“the injustice is over”).

Arturo O’ Farrill is an articulate speaker, but perhaps his most profound statement of the evening came when he proudly proclaimed, “This ain’t a museum band!” As Jon Pareles of the New York Times wrote, “Mr. O’ Farrill has honed the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra to handle dizzyingly complex music with earthly joy.”

For those who missed the event, be sure to check out the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestras most recent recording, 40 Acres & A Burro (Zoho Music) as well as Adam and Zach O’ Farril’s debut recording, Giant Peach (Zoho Music).

Last but not least, let’s hear it for the orchestra: Seneca Black (Trumpet), Peter Brainin (Tenor Saxophone), Vince Cherico (Drums, Timbales), David DeJesus (Alto Saxophone), Joe Gonzalez (Bongos, Percussion), Roland Guerrero (Congas), Reynaldo Jorge (Trombone), Tokunori Kajiwara (Trombone), Jason Marshall (Baritone Saxophone), Earl McIntyre (Bass Trombone), Michael Mossman (Trumpet), Bobby Porcelli (Alto Saxophone), Ivan Renta (Tenor Saxophone), Ricardo Rodriguez (Bass), Jim Seeley (Trumpet), Gary Valente (Trombone), John A. Walsh (Trumpet).

To learn more about the Arturo O’ Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance, visit their website HERE.

Arturo O’Farrill And The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra With Donald Harrison Performing “I’m The Big Chief Of Congo Square”

Check Out These Related Posts:
Latin Jazz Conversations: Arturo O’Farrill (Part 5)
Album Of The Week: Song For Chico, Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra
Latin Jazz In The 2000s: Changing Of The Guard
Album Of The Week: Risa Negra, Arturo O’Farrill

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