Yeswe, the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, are still here, 3+ years after leaving the womb of institutional life at a great cultural organization in Manhattan. Some said we'd never make it, but here we are,doing pretty well, too! We have our own non-profit organization and a New York concert season, perform internationally, record, provide educational programs in the public schools, commission, and maintain a library of Afro Latin Jazz music that is a unique treasure. We are grateful to our hosts for our birth home, but it is definitely better to be the master of your tidy cottage than a guest in someone else's mansion.
This recording is a testament to our musical philosophy. We believe jazz and Latin are not separate, but rather an inextricable part of each other. Latin is not three concerts out of a season, or a chapter in the book. The same elements that define jazz are all found in our music. Swing, blues, and improvisation are also part of what we play.
Oscar Hernández is an example of someone who is relegated by some jazz writers to the Salsa world. They could not be more wrong. He has always been a venerated and amazing musician whose compositions and arrangements are hip, informed, and can rightfully be called part of the world of Afro Latin Jazz. Rumba Urbana was originally written for a small group. Here it is arranged for Big Band, and it is a smoker (and always an audience favorite)!
Commissioned by the Bronx Museum, R.D. Rice, and Symphony Space, I composed A Wise Latina to celebrate the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, our nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court appointee. It is written in three sections, the first being the presentation of the idea of justice as an abstract concept, set to Bomba rhythms). The second is the ascendancy of the Justice and the legal diatribe into which she enters. Saxophonist Ivan Renta depicts Ms. Sotomayor arguing for fairness and justice in our land. The third section is the obligatory celebration, though it is gilded with slightly dissonant chords, reminding us we have a long way to go.
Chico O'Farrill, in the words of noted Cuban historian, musician, and writer, Leonardo Acosta, may be the greatest Afro Cuban jazz musician of all time." His compositions and arrangements are universally regarded by musicians as masterworks. His arrangement of Almendra is our chance to show off this great musical heritage and our love of playing this kind of music. It does not get more swinging, big, bold, and brassy than this.
Pixinguinha's Chorosare considered a national treasure of the already astonishing music of Brazil. This arrangement of Um a Zero by Proveta has all the earmarks of a great jazz chart." I love the sections where the clarinet plays alone against the sax section with a sprinkle of piano. Paquito D'Rivera sparkles with his customary wit and elegance. He is the definitive voice of our times on the instrument, and his virtuosic ease is perfect for performing the technically demanding music of Choro, and making it look easy and masterful.
Afro Peruvianjazz is why I formed this orchestra. Our love affair with the Mambo and Cuban music is important, but to explore all the riches of Latin America, one must eat more than rice and beans. Gabriel Alegria introduced me to the deep musical waters of Peru. The festejo rhythm performed in El Sur has hundreds of variants and is played with impeccable swing by Freddy Huevito" Lobatón on the traditional percussion instruments Cajón, Cajita and Quijada. Jim Seeley's thoughtful trumpet solo, joined with Gabriel's beautiful composition and Michael Collins' brilliant writing, foretells the future of Latin jazz.
I am a descendant of Irish stock and have always loved Celtic music. We performed a concert of Afro-Latin-Celtic jazz with the amazing composer, saxophonist David Bixler. She Moves Through the Fair was one of the pieces David contributed, and it is achingly beautiful. Heather Martin Bixler (David's wife) plays violin with astonishing musicality and sweetness. It is not a stretch that this arrangement of a traditional Irish air is on our record. We believe the music we call jazz belongs to the planet and that beauty knows no borders or genres.
I wrote Ruminaciones Sobre Cuba in Cuba whilst spending time with people whose friendship and love gives me hope. I hope that the politics that separate us will cease, that oppression and manipulation will end, and that the spirit of freedom takes root individually in our hearts, so that we can exercise it individually and perhaps affect the outcome of political realities. Ruminaciones Sobre Cubabegins with a nod to the great Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés.It continues on a journey through Afro Cuban jazz, flowing from a danzón, continuing with a tribute to The Chacón Sax Quartet, and culminating in a descarga that celebrates the long lasting friendship between the people of Cuba and the United States. It may not be the reality now, but the day is coming, and I, for one, am ready
There are many brilliant Latin American composers and each country seems to have its central figure. For Argentina that name is Ástor Piazzolla. His works have revolutionized music. Having lived at some point in New York, he had a respect for jazz. Michael Philip Mossman'streatment of Piazzolla's Tanguango is a perfect example of the kind of cross pollination that can occur when open minded musicians transcend genres, continents, and even decades. Bobby Porcelli turns in an alto sax solo that captures the fire and passion of tango with the cool and relaxed stance of a veteran jazzman.
Hermeto Pascoal is known for many things. He is a master melodicist who fashioned Bêbe in an outwardly flowing motion. Jovinos Santos Neto's arrangement captures that forward motion and yet bubbles with rhythmic intensity. Paquito and Jason Marshall's trade is beautiful, not so much because of the great juxtaposition of range and sound between the clarinet and baritone saxophone, but because they reveal what master musicians really do: they listen, and their interaction is truly inspired by one another.
John Birks Dizzy" Gillespie was amongst the first musicians to realize that Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean were as much a part of the real roots of jazz, as New Orleans. He was directly responsible for reintroducing jazz to its Latin roots. A Night in Tunisia is our tribute to this visionary.
Finally, in a spirit of fun and playfulness, we make a lighthearted reference to the settlement" which the newly emancipated African Americans were offered after the end of the Civil War. They were finally given what really mattered: freedom. It also makes fun of what stereotypes still exist in American culture in regard to how Latinos are viewed. 40 Acres and a Burro was written in four sections: first the burro which is easy to recognize, then the stereotype of the Mariachi minstrels, Latino white noise is the third, and finally the Mozambique with the lovely coro, La injusticia se acabó," which translated means the injustice is over."
Well, you and I know, the injustice is never over. There will always be those who think that they are or what they do is the real deal, defining themselves by what they're not rather than by what they could be. The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra stands for the possibilities of what can happen when you discard the idea of high and low culture, when you cease to engage in elitist socio-economic pandering, when you invite the pueblo into your heart, into your song and into your day-to-day life. For us, that is where the adventure begins.Arturo O'Farrill, November 2010
CD release showSymphony Space NYCFebruary 26th, 2011
with special guest: Donald Harrison
Recorded May 19-20, 2010 at Nola Recording Studios, NYC. Mixed and mastered at Nola Recording Studios, NYC. Executive Producers: R.D. Rice, Joachim Jochen" Becker. Associate Producer: Kabir Sehgal. Producers: Eric Oberstein, Arturo O'Farrill. Assistant Producer: Alison Deane. Assistants: Adam O'Farrill, Zack O'Farrill, Kevin Theodore. Engineers: Jim Czak, Bill Moss. Photo/Package Design: