The story of Arturo
Latin America has given rise to a great number of musical legends who have made history in the United States and Arturo O’Farrill is one of them. Arturo O’Farrill Valero is a bandleader, composer, arranger, pianist and jazz and Latin jazz musician who was born in Mexico City, fruit of the union of his parents Chico O’Farrill and Lupe Valero. Both were closely linked to the world of music since before their son was born, which means that the young O’Farrill followed the footsteps of his parents.
His family lived in Mexico City until the mid-1960s, when they decided to move to New York City, where Chico began to work as a musician and to establish contacts with some of the greatest musicians of the moment, such as Dizzie Gillespie, Lester Bowie, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, La Lupe and many others. His first contact with music was at the age of six, when he began taking piano lessons, which he did not like very much, but then he changed his mind and decided that music was what he wanted to dedicate his entire life to.
One of his big breaks took place when composer and jazz pianist Carla Bley contacted him to play with her band at Carnegie Hall. After getting some kind of piano and organ experience with this group, he started making solo collaborations with Howard Johnson and Steve Turre.
In the 1990s, he joined his father to help him revive his musical career. Given that Chico was in a rather vulnerable state of health, he had to delegate the hiring of his musicians to others, so Arturo wanted to intervene to help his progenitor and formed the Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra that began playing at Birdland every Saturday night. Once his father passed away in 1995, he went on to become the orchestra leader.
In the early 2000s, Lincoln Center jazz program director Wynton Marsalis contacted Arturo to ask him to help with a concert entitled The Spirit of Tito Puente. The problem was that the Lincoln Canter jazz orchestra did not get what it took to play Latin jazz. As expressed by O’Farrill in the Wall Street Journal, he tried to make the musicians to play jazz in a more Afro-Cuban way, but he could not manage to. They ended up playing a quite traditional type of jazz, but failed to capture the essence of what Arturo wanted to obtain as a result.
That’s when he knew they needed a very special group of musicians who could play music with the right approach for the genre. After that, Marsalis invited the musician to found and lead an Afro-Cuban jazz band that would perform at Lincoln Center regularly, which was baptized as the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO) after accepting the proposal. One of the things which have characterized the orchestra since its beginnings has been the use of a large instrumentation very typical of traditional jazz bands and a three-piece percussion section.
Arturo O’Farrill’s new album
According to some media reports, the artist released his latest album entitled Dreaming In Lions on September 24. In the album, O’Farrill leads a very special group of 10 musicians The Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble and receives the cooperation of the Malpaso Dance Company from Cuba.
The artist was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Old Man and the Sea (one of his favorite books at a young age) to give a name to his album. Its protagonist is a Cuban fisherman who starts dreaming of lions prowling the African shores while doing his job at sea.
What he is trying to achieve is that those who listen to the album are not just listeners of it, but also actively participate in that dream, even if it is not real.
- Del Mar
- Ensayo Silencio
- La Llorona
DREAMING IN LIONS
- Dreaming in Lions
- HowI Love
- WarBird Man
- Strugglesand Strugglets
- IWishWe Was
- Bloodin the Water
- Dreams So Gold