Arturo O'Farrill debuts at Ronnie Scott's

GRAMMY winning pianist and composer Arturo O'Farrill illuminated Ronnie Scott's with a celebration of Cuban music traditions, and apology for Donald Trump.

GRAMMY Award-winning latin jazz pianist, trumpeter and composer Arturo O’Farrill appeared for two nights at Ronnie Scott’s last week with his Latin Jazz Quintet. The band played a limited selection of material from his latest release with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, ‘Cuba – The Conversation Continues’. Arturo has been nominated for two awards at the upcoming 58th GRAMMY Awards in Hollywood this February, Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album and Best Instrumental Composition.

O’Farrill was born in Mexico but grew up in New York City, the son of legendary Latin jazz musician, arranger and bandleader Chico O'Farrill. When many people branded it a crazy idea in 2002, he created the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. His purpose was to bring the vital traditions of Cuban music and Latin jazz to a wider audience, and to greatly expand the contemporary Latin jazz big band repertoire across a wide stylistic range. He continued to stick to this idea even when the economic climate wasn’t right and has seemingly proven everyone wrong by consistently putting out fresh and new material. He continues to create and narrate political dialogue through his music, highlighting the current political and changing trade situation between the US and Cuba with the lifting of one of the most damaging embargoes in recent history. 

"I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in part owing to my country's policies..." —President John F. Kennedy, October 1963 

This was O’Farrill’s debut at Ronnie’s and he spoke about completing a life long ambition to play at the world famous club. His accompanying quintet was made up musicians from the much larger hundred strong Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra with Carlo de Rosa on bass, Vince Cherico on drums, Jim Seeley on trumpet and Ivan Renta on tenor sax.

 “Now we’re going to do something a bit unusual: play some latin jazz,” he announced. The quintet started with O’Farrill’s original ‘Compay Doug’ which saw and impressively full tenor sax solo from Ivan Renta and some very cleverly improvised piano from the bandleader. 

The quintet played compositions by Arturo’s sons Zack and Adam O’Farrill most notably ‘The Moon Follows Us Wherever We Go’ (composed by Adam), ‘Guajira Simple’ (arranged by Adam) and ‘Circle Games’ (composed by Zack). In March the Arturo O’Farrill Sextet releases this material on a new album ‘Boss Level.’

Perhaps the highlight of the evening was a Latin blues he claimed had been re-titled several times over the years. “It began in the dark days of the Bush Administration as the ‘Blue State Blues’,” he pointed out before making a personal and heartfelt apology for US Presidential candidate Donald Trump. O’Farrill is genuinely embarrassed, even ashamed by recent rallying and inflammatory speeches from Trump and set about playing the ‘Donald Wig Blues’ much to the audience’s delight.

Tributes to his Cuban father Chico, legendary Cuban musician Chano Pozo and saxophonist Livio Almeida brought together the Pan-american influences in Arturo’s playing style and there was even a tribute to David Bowie with a rendition of ‘Soul eyes’ by Mal Waldron.

Overall it was an impressive debut for the Latin jazz extraordinaire.

“If there is such a thing as a first family of Afro-Cuban jazz, the O’Farrill clan has a right to claim that distinction.” – The New York Times.

Tim Sheppard-Garcia


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