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Live Reviews

Arturo O' Farrill Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra
August 7, 2008

By Ernest Barteldes

The Jazz Standard
New York, NY

A large crowd greeted Arturo O' Farrill and his 18-piece jazz orchestra as they began their four-night residence at The Jazz Standard, a club located in Midtown Manhattan.


Now the resident band at Upper East Side's Symphony Center after a long period at Lincoln Center, the group kicked the set off with “Rumba Urbana,” an uptempo tune written by Spanish Harlem Orchestra leader Oscar Hernandez. It set the tone for the rest of the evening. After quickly greeting the audience, they continued with “Miss Stephanie,” an original number dedicated to NY 1 reporter Stephanie Simon, who O'Farrill described as “a great friend of jazz.”


The highly complex song goes into various directions, opening with a classically inspired piano solo, then shifting back and forth between Afro-Cuban and straight-ahead jazz, giving much space for individual improvised moments. Next up was “Farewell From The Heart,” a heartfelt ballad written to commemorate the end of the Orchestra's tenure at Lincoln Center.  Listening to “Farewell” brought to mind the New Orleans jazz funerals, which at first mourn the dead before switching tempos to celebrate their lives.


Young guest trumpeter Adam O' Farrill (the bandleader's son) joined the group for the funk-inspired “Song I Promised To Write,” an original composition he wrote specially for this concert series.


Adam seems to draw inspiration of yet another Arturo – in this case Sandoval – to his playing, filling his solos with high notes that reminded us of the legendary Miami-based Cuban player.


To introduce the next number, O' Farrill explained that the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra was not only dedicated “music from Puerto Rico, Cuba or New Orleans, but to music from all over the Americas,” performing a new arrangement to Astor Piazzola's “Tan-Wan-Guo” that began with handclaps and blended elements both from tango and Cuban music.


Dafnis Prieto's “Song For Chico,” which is also the name of the latest release from the Orchestra, was then performed. Before the number, O'Farrill talked ab