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For the 2016/2017 Dr. Carlos Perez-Mesa Memorial Concert we welcome the return of pianist Arturo O’Farrill, one of jazz’s most vivacious, entertaining and engaging performers. This go-round, rather than having him lead a small group or his octet -- or even the Afro-Cuban Latin Jazz Orchestra, which he “inherited” from Chico O’Farrill, his famed father who was one of most revered post-World War II big-band leaders – we asked the New York-based pianist to perform unaccompanied.
There’s nothing quite like a solo jazz piano concert – especially when it’s in the hands of a wonderful technician who has total command of the instrument – and who grew up in such a unique richly cross-cultural musical household. O’Farrill can – and does – bring it all to the table.
He may have resisted piano lessons as a child, but it certainly didn’t hurt that his father’s musical pals, peers and colleagues included Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Count Basis and a host of other luminaries not to mention an array of Latin and Afro-Cuban stalwarts and stars. That’s a long time ago, now. Suffice to say, two GRAMMYs® and four GRAMMY-nominations later, the younger – but not so young anymore – O’Farrill is now considered atop his game, a gentle soulful pianist who has absorbed a ton of influences -- from the bebop artists such as Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk to the Latin Jazz icons such as Tito Puente, Machito and vocal legend Celia Cruz, to the more modern jazz performers; his playing and his approach reflects as much – mindful of a storied history on the one hand and filled with creativity on the other.
Like his father, Arturo O’Farrill is generous, willing share his now extensive experience with others. An excellent educator, O’Farrill will also host the Jazz Series “Annual Children’s Concerts” on April 12-13. The pair of interactive engagements – “informances” – is offered free to the entire Columbia Public District’s elementary school population. This should be fun.
Jazz Times: Arturo O’Farrill: Jazz in Cuba & the Conversation Continues