Arturo O'Farrill Continues The Conversation With Cuba An economic blockade between the U.S. and Cuba didn't prevent jazz from traveling between the countries. But what if the dialogue could flow freely? The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra wanted to find out.

Jazz Night In America

Arturo O'Farrill Presents 'Cuba: The Conversation Continues'WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

Arturo O'Farrill Presents 'Cuba: The Conversation Continues'

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/450853351/450866787" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

The pianist and composer Arturo O'Farrill knows better than almost anyone that more than 50 years of a trade embargo between the U.S. and Cuba hasn't fully prevented the exchange of jazz between the two countries. He's known it since he first visited Cuba in 2002.

"The first thing that I encountered was great 'goo-gobs' of young jazz musicians who worked really hard to master this craft that we thought was our own," O'Farrill says.

Not that he's happy about the blockade. Years' worth of fruitful dialogue between musicians has been hampered, and as the leader of a big band known as the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, that's a problem he wants to address.

"I think that the more that the Cuban musicians and American musicians interact, the less of this unnatural balance will be in place," he says. "We need a new era — we desperately need a new era."

O'Farrill was raised and lives in New York City, though his roots are certainly Cuban. His father was the late Chico O'Farrill, a composer/bandleader and Cuban emigre who was instrumental in the development of Afro-Cuban jazz in the first place.

Chico O'Farrill was there when the virtuoso Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo was working with American trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie — a thought that continues to inspire Arturo O'Farrill today. Though neither spoke the other's language, they communicated through their roots in Afro-Western music.

"Discovering that in each other is the roots of each other's music was a moment of incredible clarity for both of them," O'Farrill says. "That conversation began the discovery of something that's far deeper than anything either one of them realized, and it's a conversation that was not stopped by revolution, by death, by ideology, by poverty, by commerce. It was not stopped."

Arturo O'Farrill's latest record with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra is titled Cuba: The Conversation Continues. He got six composers to envision, in their own ways, the continuation of a musical conversation that Gillespie and Pozo started. And he recorded it in Havana — just days after President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. was seeking to normalize relations with Cuba.

Jazz Night In America took in a live performance of music from Cuba: The Conversation Continues at Symphony Space in New York City — with footage of the making of the record in Cuba, as well as interviews with some of the band's special guests.

Personnel

Arturo O'Farrill, piano and conductor, with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: Seneca Black, trumpet; Jim Seeley, trumpet; John Bailey, trumpet; Jonathan Powell, trumpet; Kajiwara Tokunori, trombone; Rafi Malkiel, trombone; Frank Cohen, trombone; Earl McIntyre, bass trombone; Bobby Percelli, alto saxophone; David DeJesus, alto saxophone; Ivan Renta, tenor saxophone; Peter Brainin, tenor saxophone; Jason Marshall, baritone saxophone; Carly Maldonado, bongos; Tony Rosa, congas; Gregg August, bass; Vince Cherico, drums. Featuring Rudresh Mahanthappa, alto saxophone; Kalí Peña-Rodriguez, trumpet; Adam O'Farrill, trumpet; Alexis Bosch, piano; Cotó (Juan de la Cruz Antomarchi Padilla), tres and vocals.

[+] read more[-] less

More From Jazz

Ernie Andrews Courtesy of HighNote Records hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of HighNote Records

Ernie Andrews On Piano Jazz

Hear the vocalist bring his own special mix of energy, drama and humor to this 1998 episode with host Marian McPartland.

Ernie Andrews On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/549414757/549414978" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Patrice Rushen Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Patrice Rushen On Piano Jazz

Hear the songwriter and master keyboardist perform with host Marian McPartland on this 1987 episode.

Patrice Rushen On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/545865051/545871170" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Dennis Manuel/Courtesy of the artist

Aww Yeah, Summertime — With The Robert Glasper Experiment

This special summer festival episode features a clever synthesis of hip-hop, R&B and soul, recorded live across two music festivals in New York City.

Aww Yeah, Summertime — With The Robert Glasper Experiment

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/542780066/542781768" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Bill Charlap and his mother, Sandy Stewart. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Sandy Stewart And Bill Charlap On Piano Jazz

Hear the cabaret singer and her pianist son bring a rare combination of swing and sophistication to a session with host Marian McPartland.

Sandy Stewart And Bill Charlap On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/535960111/535960769" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Marian McPartland and Eddie Gomez in 1993. R.J. Capak/Piano Jazz Archives hide caption

toggle caption R.J. Capak/Piano Jazz Archives

Eddie Gomez On Piano Jazz

The Grammy-winning bassist's sense of swing shines through on this session with Marian McPartland, who joins in on "My Foolish Heart" and "All Of You."

Eddie Gomez On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/533993916/533995152" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Joshua Redman on saxophone, Scott Colley on bass, Brian Blade on drums and Ron Miles on cornet perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Lawrence Sumulong/Jazz at Lincoln Center hide caption

toggle caption Lawrence Sumulong/Jazz at Lincoln Center

Still Dreaming: Joshua Redman's Tribute To A Tribute

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

The saxophonist opens up about the legacy of his father, Dewey Redman, and performs with Still Dreaming — his own nod to the quartet his dad once helped convene as an homage to Ornette Coleman.

Terence Blanchard is the guest on this week's Piano Jazz. Henry Adebonojo/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Henry Adebonojo/Courtesy of the artist

Terence Blanchard On Piano Jazz

The Grammy award-winning trumpeter and composer joins Marian McPartland to perform standards like "I Thought About You" with bassist Gary Mazzaroppi.

Terence Blanchard On Piano Jazz

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/530240350/530241963" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top