The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, led by pianist, director Arturo O'Farrill is composed of 18 soloists who play classics of the Afro-Latin tradition. It exemplifies the best that Latin jazz culture offers: rich tradition through music and timeless appeal around the world. Latin jazz is a general term given to music that combines rhythms from African and Latin American countries with jazz harmonies from the United States. Afro-Cuban Latin jazz includes salsa, merengue, songo, son, mambo, bolero, charanga and cha cha cha. Originated in the 1940's when Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Kenton began to combine the rhythm section and structure of Afro-Cuban music, Latin jazz employs straight rhythm, not swung rhythm. The conga, timbale, guiro and claves are used in this unique music. The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra became a resident orchestra at Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2002 and toured internationally, bringing the rhythms and heat of Latin jazz to places as far away as China. In June 2007, the Orchestra left Jazz at Lincoln Center to pursue its own educational and performance opportunities and is delighted with its new home at Symphony Space. Performing the very best of traditional compositions in the canon of the Afro-Latin genre, the large ensemble commissions new work and leads education events. In 2006, the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra received a Grammy nomination for its debut album Una Noche Inolvidable and in 2008 won the GRAMMY for Best Latin Jazz Album of the Year with Song for Chico. 2009-2010 marks their third season of concerts at Symphony Space. Ultimately, the organization seeks to provide an opportunity for a new generation of composers, arrangers and instrumentalists to further explore and define the music. www.afrolatinjazz.org
About the Composers
Arturo O’Farrill, director, pianist, composer and winner of the Latin Jazz USA Outstanding Achievement Award for 2003, was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. In 2002, Mr. O’Farrill and Wynton Marsalis created the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra for Jazz at Lincoln Center due in part to a large and very demanding body of music in the genre of Latin and Afro Cuban jazz that deserves to be much more widely appreciated and experienced by the general jazz audience. His debut album with the Orchestra Una Noche Inolvidable earned a Grammy award nomination in 2006. Recently, Mr. O’Farrill was the recipient of The Distinguished Alumnus Medal from Brooklyn College. He also received the 2007 Outstanding Achievement in Jazz Award from the Alliance of New York State Arts Organizations. Arturo currently teaches at the State University of New York at Purchase (SUNY). A recognized composer, Mr. O’Farrill has received commissions from Meet the Composer, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Philadelphia Music Project and The Big Apple Circus. He also directs the band that preserves much of his father’s music, the Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra. Mr. O’Farrill has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Fort Apache Band, Carla Bley, Lester Bowie, Harry Belafonte, Freddy Cole, Wynton Marsalis among many others. In February of this year his album with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra Song for Chico received a Grammy Award for “Best Latin Jazz Album.”
Randy Weston, NEA Jazz Master, jazz pianist and composer, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926 and influenced by Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Art Tatum and Duke Ellington but it was Monk who had the greatest impact. "He was the most original I ever heard," Weston remembers. "He played like they must have played in Egypt 5000 years ago." Randy Weston’s first recording as a leader came in 1954 on Riverside Records Randy Weston plays Cole Porter - Cole Porter in a modern mood. It was in the ‘50's when Randy Weston performed in the New York area with Cecil Payne and Kenny Dorham and wrote many of his best loved tunes, "Saucer Eyes," "Pam's Waltz," "Little Niles," and, "Hi-Fly." His greatest hit, "Hi-Fly," Weston (who is 6' 8") says, is a "tale of being my height and looking down at the ground. Randy Weston has never failed to make the connections between African and American music. His dedication is due in large part to his father, Frank Edward Weston, who told his son that he was, "an African born in America." "He told me I had to learn about myself and about him and about my grandparents," Weston said in an interview, "and the only way to do it was I'd have to go back to the motherland one day." In the late 60's, Weston left the country. But instead of moving to Europe like so many of his contemporaries, Weston went to Africa. Though he settled in Morocco, he traveled throughout the continent tasting the musical fruits of other nations. "At the end," Weston says, "we all realized that our music was different but the same, because if you take out the African elements of bossa nova, samba jazz, blues, you have nothing.. To me, it's Mother Africa's way of surviving in the new world." After contributing six decades of musical direction and genius, Randy Weston remains one of the world's foremost pianists and composers today, a true visionary.
Bob Franceschini, saxophonist and composer was born and raised in New York City. He attended Music and Art High School and began touring and recording immediately after high school. Mr. Franceschini has played in all types of settings with the who’s who of Jazz, Latin Jazz, Pop, Soul, Gospel and even contemporary classical idioms. Franceschini brings it all together in his compositions. With “Soul and Culture Suite” he has brought together a mini history of Latin rhythmic evolution. It begins with an African 6/8 to a Cuban Son, to a son muntuno, then a Latin Jazz feel, to a Timba groove and back to an African feel. It is challenging as it is filled with counter rhythms and modern harmony. The work showcases the Orchestra’s ability to interpret the full gamut of Latino musical styles and transcend technical challenges and at the same time, presents this music with authority, swing and feeling.
Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill (1921-2001), trumpeter, composer and one of the master architects of Afro Cuban Jazz, was born in Havana, Cuba. Chico studied at the Havana Conservatory, performed in nightclubs, then moved to New York where he continued his musical studies with Stefan Wolpe of the Juilliard School and became a part of the New York jazz scene. Benny Goodman hired him as a staff arranger. O’Farrill penned one of Benny’s biggest big band hits, “Undercurrent Blues”. In the 1940’s and ‘50’s he composed the crown jewel of the Afro Cuban jazz genre: “The Afro Cuban Jazz Suite,” and wrote for Machito, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Kenton, and many others including his own orchestras. In the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, Chico turned his attention to commercial writing, including jingles, film scores and industrials and at the same time contributed brilliant compositions and arrangements for Count Basie, Ringo Starr, David Bowie, Gato Barbieri, Art Farmer and countless others. In 1995 after 30 years of not recording under his name, O’Farrill made 3 recordings; Pure Emotion, Heart of a Legend – both nominated for Grammy’s - and Carambola.
Adam O’Farrill, trumpeter and composer, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1994, already has an impressive list of achievements. This summer, he made his international music festival debut performing as a soloist at the Mount Fuji Jazz Festival in Japan. In February of this year, Adam was winner of an Outstanding Soloist Award at the First Annual Charles Mingus High School Jazz Competition. In June, he was invited to the White House to participate in the first Jazz Workshop hosted by First Lady Michele Obama. He has also performed at Birdland and the Jazz Standard. Adam studied piano for seven years with Fiona Bicket and has studied trumpet for six years with Jim Seeley. He is the composer of several big band works as well as numerous compositions for small ensembles. Adam and his drummer brother Zack perform regularly with their quintet, Alphabet Soup, including Sunday brunch every week at Puppet’s Jazz Bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn. They can also be heard on the recent CD release Risa Negra (Zoho) which features one of Adam’s compositions “Crazy Chicken.” A sophomore at LaGuardia High School, Adam is a member of the Symphonic Orchestra, Symphonic Band, and the Senior Jazz Band. He attends Manhattan School of Music Pre-College, a student of Nathan Warner.
Ray Santos, saxophonist and composer, Julliard graduate, born and raised in New York City, has played, recorded, composed and arranged for the frontline orchestras in the Latin Music Industry over the past 50 years. He penned an extensive output of charts, recorded by two generations of the most influential musical figures in contemporary American and Caribbean music, such as Machito, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez. His career from the ‘60s into the early ‘80s matured in Puerto Rico where he wrote and directed music for television, produced recordings for established and emerging Salsa Bands, and played for many top stars in the business. His career as a music educator at City College of New York has established him as an authority on Caribbean music, teaching a new generation of musicians. Media and film producers have contracted him as an arranger and music consultant and he remains an artistic innovator in the field.
The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance Academy of Music
The traditions of Afro Latin jazz are being passed along to students who have never before been touched by the history and culture of this music through the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance Academy of Music, an after school program at the Brooklyn Bridge Academy (BBA) in Canarsie. Ten students – all beginners - are receiving lessons and learning about Ellington, Coltrane, Hancock, Tito Puente and Ray Baretto and the blues. Students receive school credit. Peter Brainin, tenor saxophonist, is the Academy Director. The program continues with the support of FEGS, BBA and the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance (ALJA).
The Chico O’Farrill Scholarship
Trumpeter, 14 year old Keefe Martin is the 2009 recipient of the Chico O’Farrill Memorial Scholarship, made possible by a generous grant from the composer’s widow, Mrs. Lupe O’Farrill. Keefe is a repeat Scholarship winner. A 9th grade student at the Frank Sinatra High School in Queens, he picked up the trumpet at age 6. At age 8 he was accepted into the Music Advancement Program at Julliard and at 10 he became a student at The Middle School Jazz Academy at Jazz at Lincoln Center. He attends Manhattan School of Music Pre-College Program on a Scholarship. For the past two summers he has attended Interlochen Arts Camp, and Boys Harbor (two Weeks) intensive Latin Music Program. Jim Seeley is his teacher. Next scholarship will be awarded in Fall 2010. If interested, please contact ALJA at 718-788-2025.