March 21, 2019

MSM Afro-Cuban Jazz Concert on March 28: A Conversation with Arturo O’Farrill

This evening of infectious rhythms is a celebration of the musical tradition and lineage of the legendary O’Farrill family, and their connection to MSM.

Under the direction of three-time Grammy-winner Arturo O’Farrill, the March 28 concert features music by his father Chico, considered one of the architects of Afro-Cuban jazz, by Arturo’s son, up-and-coming jazz trumpeter Adam, and by Arturo himself.

Arturo shares with us his thoughts about this historic occasion:

What is special about this concert for you?

MSM is a huge part of my life. I went to MSM Precollege, and my wife, pianist Alison Susan Deane, received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from MSM. My sons Zack and Adam both received degrees from the School, and in the past several years I’ve had the privilege of teaching here as well. My father Chico O’Farrill, who’s considered to be the architect of modern Afro-Cuban Jazz, has somehow never had a performance of his masterpieces at MSM, and this is a beautiful homecoming for all of us. To see my music and my father’s music performed at this institution that has played such a huge role in my life is a moment of pure joy.

Can you tell us about some of the music people will hear in the concert?

We will be performing my father’s Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite, which is considered by many to be a masterpiece of modern music and originally featured Charlie Parker as the soloist. We’ll also be performing my Afro-Latin Jazz Suite, which featured Rudresh Mahanthappa and received a Grammy award for best instrumental composition in 2017. Also on the program is the rarely performed Aztec Suite written for Art Farmer, as well as a piece from my latest release Invisible Suite, which involves singers, a string quartet, and unusual orchestration. Finally, we are including a beautiful arrangement of a Seri folk song by Adam O’Farrill.

“It must swing, groove, tumbao, whatever you call it, but it must!”

Pianist, Conductor, Composer

Why are you excited about working with the MSM Jazz Arts program?

The MSM Jazz Arts program, under the leadership of Stefon Harris, is redefining itself in many ways and it is an exciting moment to be a part of the MSM faculty. Jazz itself is in the throes of great change and reawakening, and I believe MSM is one of the institutions on the forefront of this amazing moment in our music.

Why should people come to the concert?

This will be an evening of marriages. The marriage of Cuba, Africa, and all of the Americas. The marriage of conscience and art. The marriage of intellect, soul, and heart. Most of all, it will reflect the marriage of activist-inspired, artist-led music that has not forgotten the most important precept of jazz — it must swing, groove, tumbao, whatever you call it, but it must!


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