Arturo O’Farrill, pianist, composer, educator, 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 created the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra for Jazz at Lincoln Center due in part to a large and very demanding body of substantial 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.
Educated at the Manhattan School of Music, Brooklyn College Conservatory, and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, Mr. O’Farrill played piano with the Carla Bley Big Band from 1979 through 1983. He then went on to develop as a solo performer with a wide spectrum of artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Steve Turre, Freddy Cole, The Fort Apache Band, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis, and Harry Belafonte.
In 1995 Mr. O’Farrill agreed to direct the band that preserved much of his father’s music, Chico O’Farrill’s Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, which has been in residence at New York City’s famed nightclub Birdland for the past 15 years. He also performs throughout the world as a solo artist and with his smaller groups.
Besides recording eight albums as a leader for Milestone Records, 32 Jazz, Zoho and M & I, Mr. O’Farrill has appeared on numerous records including the Grammy-nominated Heart of a Legend, Carambola, and the soundtrack to the critically acclaimed movie Calle 54. Mr. O’Farrill was a special guest soloist at three landmark Jazz at Lincoln Center concerts— Afro-Cuban Jazz: Chico O’Farrill’s Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Con Alma: The Latin Tinge in Big Band Jazz, and the 2001 Jazz at Lincoln Center Gala: The Spirit of Tito Puente. In 2002, he was also the featured artist in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz in the Schools Tour, when he led a Latin jazz quintet for more than 50 educational performances that reached over 10,000 students in NYC metropolitan area schools.
As an educator, he has taught master classes, seminars, and workshops throughout the world for students and teachers of all levels. Recently, Mr. O’Farrill received the Distinguished Alumnus Medal from Brooklyn College and served as the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist in Residence at Lafayette College. In the summer of 2007, Mr. O’Farrill served as Visiting Artist at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and in 2007-2008 was Assistant Professor of Jazz at The University of Massachussetts in Amherst.
Throughout the past few years, Mr. O’Farrill has toured the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and in 2006, led the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra on a tour of Mexico. In 2007, the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra left Jazz at Lincoln Center to pursue its own educational and performance opportunities. To that end, the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance was created as a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation , furthering, and education of Afro Latin jazz.
Since their departure from Jazz at Lincoln Center, the orchestra has performed in the prestigious Megaron concert hall in Athens, Bern Jazz Festival, Rialto Concert Hall in Atlanta, and with their new performance partner New Yorks’ acclaimed Symphony Space they have presented their own concert season, a celebration of Latin jazz throughout the Americas. They have also established a residency in the schools program with weekly private and ensemble classes for inner city kids.
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 has also composed music for films including Hollywoodland and Salud. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, classical pianist Alison Deane, and their sons, Zachary and Adam, both accomplished musicians and students at LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts. He is currently on the faculty of SUNY Purchase.