About the Orchestra
The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO), 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 son, mambo, bolero, charanga, cha cha cha and other styles. Originated in the 1940s 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. 2011-2012 marks the ALJO’s 10th Anniversary Season and the 5th season of concerts at Symphony Space. Ultimately, the Orchestra seeks to provide an opportunity for a new generation of composers, arrangers and instrumentalists to further explore and define the music. The ALJO released its third album, 40 Acres and a Burro, in 2011.
About the Composers, Arrangers and Guests
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. The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra is currently in residence at Symphony Space and at Birdland on Sunday nights. Mr. O’Farrill’s 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. 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. Mr. O’Farrill has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Fort Apache Band, Carla Bley, Lester Bowie, Harry Belafonte, Freddy Cole and Wynton Marsalis, among many others. In February 2009 his album with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra Song for Chico received a GRAMMY Award for Best Latin Jazz Album. Their new album, 40 Acres and a Burro, was released this year to critical acclaim.
Andy Gonzalez, well-known Latin jazz bassist, is a New York city native with parents from Puerto Rico. At age 13, after several years of violin & bass training, Andy and his brother, Jerry, joined a band called the Latin Jazz Quintet, heavily influenced by the sound of Cal Tjader. The band’s first gig was at the Colgate Gardens in the Bronx on a bill opposite Tjader himself. The pianist Llewellen Matthews, a member of the Latin Jazz Quintet influenced the musical growth and professional discipline of both brothers. Later both brothers joined a rehearsal band formed by Matthews. “If it were not for him there’s no telling what path our lives would have taken,” said Andy. Over the next few years, the brothers performed in a variety of musical settings: playing Jazz with Kenny Dorham and Dizzy Gillespie and Salsa with Eddie Palmieri and Ray Barretto. During his years with Palmieri, Andy formed a friendship with Manny Oquendo. In 1974, the two co-founded and co-led the group Libre with Manny on timbales and Andy as musical director; this was a partnership that lasted until Oquendo’s death 35 years later in 2009. In 1980, the Gonzalez brothers again broke new ground with the formation of the Fort Apache Band - one of the most important and influential groups playing Latin Jazz. Both bands continue to perform. Andy Gonzalez has performed for over 40 years and in over 800 recording sessions. He performed with Arturo O’Farrill and the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra.
Jerry Gonzalez, trumpeter, conga player, composer and arranger, first made his mark as a leader 30 years ago, forever changing the sound and direction of Latin Jazz. Gonzalez’s debut recording, Ya Yo Me Curé, drew upon his years of experience working with Kenny Dorham, Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Palmieri and Manny Oquendo y Su Conjunto Libre and Grupo Folklorico y Experimental Nuevayorquino. It combined compositions from the Ellington, Monk and Wayne Shorter songbooks with pure Afro-Cuban folkloric rhythms, to create a new sound that bore the conguero/trumpeter’s unmistakable stamp of originality. Ya Yo Me Curé forecast the formation of the Fort Apache Band, the group that grew out of weekly workshop sessions led by Gonzalez at the New Rican Village and (later) Soundscape. It featured a rotating cast of remarkable musicians from both the jazz and Latin music communities. The recording Rumba Para Monk, with the quintet consisting of Jerry with his bassist brother Andy Gonzalez, Steve Berrios, Larry Willis and Carter Jefferson, prophesied the future of Fort Apache, receiving the Grand Prix of the French Academe du Jazz. Fort Apache was voted World Beat Group of the Year in Downbeat's 55th Annual Readers Poll. In the year 2000, Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band figured prominently in the film
Calle 54, Fernando Trueba’s documentary on Latin Jazz. In 2005, Gonzalez recorded Rumba Buhaina, a tribute to Art Blakey.
Miguel Blanco, composer, arranger and bassist, was born in Barcelona, Spain, and has a degree from Berklee College of Music. He arranges, produces and conducts for a wide range of ensembles: vocal bands, symphonic orchestras, pop bands, jazz big bands and has always been focused on Latin music. He has worked with Cuban artists including Paquito D’Rivera, Omara Portuondo, Olga Guillot, and the Mexican bolero composer Armando Manzanero. For the last seven years, he has led “La Calle Caliente” – a Latin jazz septeto which has recorded three CDs. Currently he composes and arranges for his own ensemble “Afrodisian Orchestra” which has produced two CDs: Mediterraciones – Barco 2009 and Satierismos. His awards in composing include the first place Spanish award in 1992 and 1995 and the third Iberoamerican award in 1998 in Havana. He teaches arranging at the Musikene Conservatory – Basque Country.
Johannes Walter, trumpet player, arranger and educator, is based in Bern, Switzerland and comes from a musical family. He studied with Bert Joris at the Swiss Jazz School in Bern and graduated with a degree in jazz trumpet performance and music education. He has also enjoyed master classes with Wynton Marsalis, Nicholas Payton, David Liebman, Michael Brecker, Kenny Barron and others. Johannes is the Director and founding member of the Swiss Jazz Orchestra (SJO) as well as arranger and producer. The SJO, formed in 2003, performs weekly and has collaborated with Jim McNeely, Bob Mintzer, Bert Joris, Phil Woods, George Gruntz, Dick Oatts and others.