Arturo O’Farrill Sextet: Boss Level
Arturo O’Farrill on Piano
Livio Almeida on Tenor Sax
Shawn Conley on Bass
Adam O’Farrill on Trumpet
Zack O’Farrill on Drums
Travis Reuter on Guitar
September 12, 2016
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 14, 2016
This CD is essentially a warm, top-notch musical family celebration, a project led by the multiple-Grammy winning, Mexican-born, Arturo O’Farrill, renowned Latin Jazz pianist, composer, and conductor of his Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, now part of his umbrella group, the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance. Arturo famously brought his father’s original Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra back to perform in Havana in 2010, perhaps one of the catalysts for the thrilling easing of American travel to Cuba. On Arturo’s new album, the listener is introduced to Arturo’s two sons, Adam on trumpet and Zack on drums. Also sitting in on the recording session, after a week of the sextet’s performances, were Livio Almeida on tenor sax, Shawn Conley on bass, and Travis Reuter on guitar. Arturo compares the exhilaration of creating music with his youthful ensemble to the “running, jumping, swimming” of video games. Liner notes exude his pride and adoration for Zack and Adam, each of whom also contributed original compositions for this new release. Below, I have chosen one track by each of the O’Farrill trio, and one by Horace Silver, a mid-late 20th century, hard bop and soul pianist and composer. Each track is unique, with contrasting tempo, mood, tonality, and texture. Unlike Arturo’s Latin-infused orchestra and ensembles, this sextet exists for pure jazz, contemporary and urban.
#1 – Miss Stephanie – Composed by Arturo O’Farrill. Arturo’s new piece, a tribute to Stephanie Simon of television station NY1 News, for much appreciated publicity, takes off like a festive celebration. Arturo’s vibrant piano and Livio and Adam’s fused brass open the gates for the sax’ expansive and compelling solo, backed by bass and drums. Soon Adam makes his trumpet known, staccato and playful in the spotlight. But the piece has more, Travis’ groovy guitar solo, electrically charged and dissonant. The track plays out with Arturo illuminating his piano, as the ensemble fuses.
#4 – Circle Games – Composed by Zack O’Farrill. Zack’s track winds like the circles in the title, in, out, and through stretched tones and some eerie effects, dynamic and experimental. The a cappella, understated drums open, soon joined for a percussion-bass duo, up to a minute, when Adam’s trumpet and Livio’s sax are showcased like a rambling, brassy river that gushes into a rapid waterfall. Smooth dizzy sax effects pierce the air, with the trumpet winding through the melée. Shawn’s bass solo and Travis' atonal guitar quiet the piano’s backdrop.
#5 – Maine Song – Composed by Adam O’Farrill. Adam’s composition is evocative of a bucolic Maine lake, with his trumpet featured throughout in mellow, melodic tones. Arturo harmonizes nicely, as trumpet and sax blend. I was struck with the piano’s quasi-music box tonality, lending a storybook quality to this track. Travis’ atonal guitar effects and Shawn’s bass solo create a brass-string conversation. This music simplicity added a melodic interlude to the rambunctious album.
#10 – Peace – Composed by Horace Silver. Arturo’s piano opens this gorgeous theme wistfully, as the Silver piece was included as a ceasefire plea, in the face of endless wars. Quiet drum flourishes filter throughout, as Shawn’s resonant, sometimes atonal bass beats the tempo. This was a soulful interlude, albeit finale, to a serendipitous selection of dynamic works by seasoned and emerging artists.