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Arturo O'Farrill - 40 ACRES and A BURRO

Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra -][- 40 ACRES and A BURRO – [ZOHO, 2011] – MUSIC REVIEW

New York based and internationally known Grammy winning composer/pianist Arturo O’Farrill returns with another spirited blend of Latin jazz at its finest titled “40 Acres and a Burro” on ZOHO MUSIC. As history buffs, you should be acquainted with this term “40 Acres and a Mule” (other than Spike Lee brand) being that the origin of the phrase goes back to 1865 when confederacy was occupied by the Union and therefore promised the slave’s farmland for them to potentially (illusive) earn a living on once they were freed. Fast forward, no wonder the GOP is ill tempered about the Black farmers and Native Americans finally got what was due to them (defeat and payback dwells in the heart of the oppressors).

The highly-acclaimed pianist Arturo O’Farrill ushers in a comprehensive collection of lively Afro-Latin jazz which subsequently provides a wealth of heartfelt music which gives jazz aficionados the opportunity to clinch, savor and enjoy this amazing musical extravaganza from my Latin brother’s perspective.

Fortunately, this grand experiment ALJO (Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra) turned into a dream fulfilled begin in 2002. In essence, this journey has helped redefined the voice of the large ensemble (big bands) in the 21st Century for a new generation of listeners guided by the artistic vision of pianist/composer Arturo O’Farrill. He introduces big band in a light that many of us might otherwise avoid but you simply cannot ignore. “40 Acres” opens this eleven song set with the spirited and rousing piece called “Rumba Urbana.” This piece is grounded firmly in the traditions of Latin music yet he chooses to unite the components of jazz as its kindred footprint to establish a snapshot of what’s yet to come.

Even though I was a little surprised to see only three songs were pen by O’Farrill, nonetheless this doesn’t change my perception about the flow of the music. The sassy “A Wise Latina,” by Arturo was of course written with the ladies in mind. Now, this fiery gem maximizes the vigorous symmetry of the horn section but within moments the swag of the rhythm section intervenes to redirect a renewed oomph at the base of the groove will definitely leave you grasping for more.

As the commander of this authentic Latin Jazz expedition, O’Farrill and his orchestra brightens up the room sonically with composer Abelardo Valdes’ spicy gem titled “Almendra.” Like many Americans, particularly southerners back in the day where culturally at a disadvantage so my first encounter with Latin Jazz /Big Band was with TV personality Ricky Ricardo and our favorite redhead Lucy. In other words, songs like “Um A Zero” reflect the honesty and beauty of the Latin culture many of us would not know otherwise.

Violinist Heather Martin Bixler steps in as the featured soloist on “She Moves Through The Fair,” this traditional piece adds a warm bravura and certainly a distinctive pieces thus far. Bixler adsorbs her appointment in order to accent this already exhilarating musical experience with an unexpected zeal.

As I witness this prophetic musical journey unfold, I cannot deny the joy of listening to musicians thoroughly immerse themselves in their culture through this sentimental voyage with enthusiasm, talent and optimism! Moreover, the blurring sounds intensify on “Ruminaciones Sobre Cuba” by O’Farrill which reinforces the reason why I love Latin Jazz in the first place!

The legendary Astor Piazzolla pens the irresistible “Tanguango,” it irrupts with fluent shapes, colors and obvious spicy ingredients to stir up the mix of an already intoxicating combination of jazz and Latin music. Arturo’s dexterous voice encompasses it seems the theme of the entire Caribbean including songwriter Hermento Pascoal’s “BEBE’.” This bouncy jewel effectively keeps wheels spinning through the lens of O’Farrill’s insightful expedition of Latin music meets jazz to perfection.

The session winds down with two engaging pieces starting with “Night in Tunisia” by Dizzy Gillespie and F. Papparelli. Usually when artist cover this classic, some tend to stay with the original context of what has already done. Meanwhile, Arturo decided to handle his business to essentially affirm his passion as an innovator to make his impact! O’Farrill and company hit the sweet spot and burn the joint up with “40 Acres and a Burro” this tasty title piece is definitely one shake things up it one of my favorites.

Every now and then we cross paths with artist spirit that leaves and indelible impression upon us, pianist/composer Arturo O’Farrill’s voice has indeed beckon me into a threshold, reality or revelation of sort to inquire further into the body of his music. There was no balancing act or short cuts taken, “40 Acres and A Burro” by pianist Arturo O’Farrill confirms his presence with inspiring tones, rhythms and flavors that are fresh, honest and complex enough for music lovers to thoroughly enjoy genuine music anchored by incredible musicianship from beginning to the end is reason to celebrate. —Rob Young

Arturo – Piano
Ricardo Rodriguez – Bass
Vince Cherico – Drums
Roland Guerrero – Congas
Joe Gonzalez – Percussion
Alto Sax: David De Jesus and Bobby Porcelli (lead)
Tenor Sax: Peter Brainer and Ivan Renta (Lead)
Baritone Sax: Jason Marshall
Trumpets: Seneca Black, Michael Phillip Mossman, (Lead) Jim Seeley and John Walsh
Trombones: Reynaldo Jorge (Lead), Tokunori Kajiwara, Earl McIntyre and Gary Valente,
Guests: Paquito D’Rivera – Clarinet, Gabriel Alegria – Conducting, Adam O’Farrill- Trumpet, Heather Martin Bixler – Violin, Yuri Juarez – Guitar

Rumba Urbana
A Wise Latina
Um A Zero
El Sur
She Moves Through The Air
Ruminaciones Sobre Cuba
A Night in Tunisia
40 Acres and A Burro