Archive for arturo o’farrill

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015: Final Thoughts

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 5, 2015 by curtjazz
Diane Schuur takes the stage (Photo by John Davenport)

Diane Schuur takes the stage (Photo by John Davenport)

Some final thoughts on this year’s Atlanta Jazz Festival…

Some very strong performances this year and I love the infusion of more of the younger generation of jazz artists. Continuing this pattern bodes well for the AJF’s future.

The frustrating part is (and always will be) the fact that it is impossible to catch all of the great groups on the three stages. This year I stuck mostly to the Main Stage to keep from fighting the huge crowds. I managed to catch a few terrific sets at the International Stage but I know that I missed so much more…

Top Performances that I saw:

  1. Four Women (Kathleen Bertrand, Julie Dexter, Terry Harper and the show stealing Rhonda Thomas) a tribute to Nina Simone – Wow…Oh Wow!!! These ladies and the support provided by their musical director Russell Gunn were simply amazing. And the fact that Ms. Simone’s sister was in the audience made it even better.
  2. Otis Brown III – Brother Brown mixed the sacred and the secular into an all-encompassing groove. Big up for the horns – Marquis Hill on trumpet and John Ellis on tenor!
  3. Banda Magda – The charismatic vocalist/multi-instrumentalist  Magda Giannikou and company had the International Stage audience captivated. Hope to catch them again soon.
  4. Diane Schuur – The lady is still as marvelous and classy as ever. And it she was joined by first-class talents including Ben Wolfe on  bass and Don Braden on the saxes.
  5. Nettwork Trio – Charnett Moffett on bass, Stanley Jordan on guitar and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums…no fanfare, no glitz, just three of the best in the business, showing us how it’s done.

The performances that I most regret missing:

  1. Dida Pelled – Curse you ATL Memorial Day weekend traffic!!! I arrived at the park just after she finished.
  2. Arturo O’Farrill – The crowd had grown so big that it was almost impossible to move to The International Stage by Sunday evening. I should have tried anyway!
  3. Mad Satta – Just because I knew from jump that I was going to miss this great young neo-soul group doesn’t make me feel any better about it.
  4. Tony Hightower – This vocalist has a bright future, I’m just sorry that I couldn’t get to the Locals Stage to catch a piece of it.

Big thumbs up for:

  • Karen Hatchett; the AJF’s Awesome PR Director and the wonderful team of volunteers at the Media Tent. Y’all always make John and I feel welcome. Because of all of you, AJF is (and always will be) a first class jazz festival.
  • The beautiful people of Atlanta who come to the AJF every year. I stood at the top of the meadow at one point and looked out over the crowd that was about 85% African-American and I just saw people, enjoying the music and each other. All of the nasty narratives that some nameless cable news outlets peddle about us was nowhere in sight. Sorry that y’all couldn’t find room for the AJF on your “Factor”.
  • The lady in one of the tents with the great looking Red Velvet cake. Ma’am, that cake looked so good, that I almost lied and said that I was part of your family, so could get a slice!
  • Working side by side with my son. Watching as he comes into his own is one of the greatest experiences ever.

BlueSatch, I’m sorry that I couldn’t find you, bro. Next year for sure!

That’s all for 2015. We’ll see you all in the same place next Memorial Day Weekend…

Until then, the jazz continues…

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Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 Preview: Sunday on the International Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2015 by curtjazz
Arturo O'Farrill

Arturo O’Farrill

On Sunday, May 24th, the 38th Atlanta Jazz Festival’s International Stage will close in a big way, with the latest winners of the Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album: Arturo O’Farrill and his Latin Jazz Orchestra. The group won the honor for their latest release, The Offense of the Drum (Motema), which is a stunning tour through a melange of Latin styles; with great guest stars such as Vijay Iyer and Donald Harrison adding to the fun. It was the second time they won the award, the first was in 2009 for Song for Chico.

A pianist, composer and bandleader, Mr. O’Farrill is the son of one of the legendary founders of the Afro-Cuban jazz genre, Chico O’Farrill. Born in Mexico, Arturo moved to NYC with his family at the age of 5. Soon began a musical odyssey, which would initially find Arturo decidedly moving away from the music of his father toward straight-ahead jazz. As he learned to play piano, one of his original idols was Chick Corea. Discovered as a teen, playing piano in an upstate New York bar, by Carla Bley. O’Farrill then joined Ms. Bley onstage at Carnegie Hall a few weeks later. He then spent three fruitful and educational years in Ms. Bley’s band before moving on to a stint as musical director for Harry Belafonte.

After later working with (and getting history lessons from) Andy and Jerry Gonzalez and their renowned Ft. Apache Band, Arturo made his way back to his roots, joining his father’s band in 1995, as Chico O’Farrill was experiencing a late career renaissance. With his father now being ill, Arturo became the band’s pianist, musical director and contractor, spearheading the group as they began a 15 year Sunday night residency at NYC’s famed Birdland, in 1997. After his father’s death in 2001, Arturo became the titular leader of the band, as they rose to new heights with a mixture of the traditional Afro-Cuban sound favored by Chico O’Farrill with the blend of Latin rhythms from all over the Western Hemisphere, that have become the younger O’Farrill’s trademark.

But before Mr. O’Farrill gets to close things out on Sunday evening, the International Stage will feature a Turkish percussionist, a Brazilian vocalist and a Haitian guitar based group with a remarkable back story. Sitting still throughout the day will be very difficult indeed.

1:30 PM – Fernanda Noronha

Ferananda Noronha is a Brazilian native who now calls Atlanta home. Her eponymous first CD, recorded in 2005, was produced by the master jazz drummer/producer Norman Connors, who also guided the careers of Jean Carne and the late Phyllis Hyman, among others. The disc was not released in the U.S. until last year, but it has received a lot of attention in the ATL area. A vocalist since the age of 13, Ms. Noronha counts Sarah Vaughan, Stevie Wonder and Joao Gilberto among her influences, which is not surprising, since her infectious sound includes elements of all three of those legendary performers.

3:30 PM – Strings

Born in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti in 1959, guitarist Jacky Ambroise was introduced to music at a very early age when his father Jean-Jacques D. Ambroise played the classical flute at family gatherings and his mom sang folk songs. Tragically, he lost both of his parents at the age of 6, due to Haiti’s political turmoil. Fascinated by Spanish music as well as the rhythms of his homeland, Jacky Ambroise taught himself to play the guitar at age 8 and a few years later, he was one of the most popular artists in his homeland. The group Strings, which Ambroise formed with another guitar playing friend, Philippe Augustin, plays a style they call “Tropical Flamenco”, which successfully blends their musical influences. Having now fully recovered from major brain surgery in 2009, Mr. Ambroise will join Mr. Augustin and the other members of Strings as they fill the AJF International Stage with pure musical joy.

5:30 PM – Emrah Kotan

Atlanta resident Emrah Kotan is a classically trained percussionist who came to the United States from his native Turkey and received a Master’s degree in Jazz Studies from Georgia State University. His debut album, The New Anatolian Experience, is a collection of original compositions and arrangements that fuse world music and jazz, creating stylistically sophisticated vibes and a genuine model of personal artistic expression. Aside from performing, Emrah is an enthusiastic music educator who has conducted master classes and has taught many students over the years, some of which who have been awarded music scholarships by the colleges of their choice. Emrah teaches students of all ages privately and is the Director of the Jazz and World Percussion Ensembles at Agnes Scott College.

7:30 PM – Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

We’ve told much of Arturo O’Farrill’s musical story above. So now, we’ll let the two-time Grammy winner speak for himself.

Music by these artists and many other AJF38 performers can be heard on our 24/7 Live365 streaming jazz radio station, Curt’s Cafe Noir, from 5PM – 7PM, daily between now and May 31.

For more information about the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website: http://atlantafestivals.com

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 – All That Jazz and it’s FREE

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2015 by curtjazz

Atlanta Jazz Festival - red logoThey’ve been doing it for almost 40 years with no sign of slowing down…It’s friends, family, food, fun and most important (for me, at least) JAZZ.  The biggest and best free jazz festival in the Southeast, The 38th Atlanta jazz Festival will take over Piedmont Park once again this Memorial Day Weekend, Friday May 22 – Sunday, May 24. The full lineup was announced yesterday.  I am impressed that once again, in a world that readily slaps the name “jazz festival” on virtually any multi-day musical event that features adult oriented black artists, the producers of AJF38 have booked a lineup that is varied but true to the music’s origins.

This year we will hear from a classic jazz legend, in Pharoah Sanders; a contemporary legend in the form of vocalist Diane Schuur, plus, in a not to be missed Saturday night lineup, sponsored by Blue Note Records, we will hear from three of that venerable label’s young keepers of the flame: Marcus Strickland, Otis Brown III and Derrick Hodge. There will also be a couple of supergroups; one a quartet of Atlanta finest female jazz vocalists (Kathleen Bertrand, Julie Dexter, Rhonda Thomas and Terry Harper), in tribute to Nina Simone; the other a trio of cats who are all leaders in their own right and who will surely be nothing short of combustible together: Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums, Stanley Jordan on guitar and Charnett Moffett on bass.

The International Stage will as always, be the hippest spot at the AJF; as the sounds of jazz will be mixed with the rhythms of Cuba, Brazil, Greece, Israel and other cool spots from around the globe. Headliners will be the pianist and Quincy Jones protegé Alfredo Rodriguez and the multiple Grammy winning son of Afro-Cuban music royalty, Arturo O’Farrill and his Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra .

Back again in 2015 will be one of AJF 2014’s best ideas – The Locals Stage. Featuring the artists who work in and around the Atlanta area most of the year, getting a chance to show a wider audience what they can do. Wolfpack ATL, Tony Hightower and Jeff Sparks will be among the hometown favorites hitting that stage.

Of course as we get closer to May 23, we’ll start with our usual preview reports and video clips. You’ll also hear the music of many of the artists in special AJF38 segments on Curt’s Cafe Noir.

I’ve got a lot a musical dilemmas to settle between now and then, because as much as I’ve tried to do it, I’ve determined that I can’t be in two (or three) places at one. Hope to see you there come Memorial Day Weekend.

Visit the AJF 2015 Website for more info: http://atlantafestivals.com/

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 – The Complete Schedule

Friday, May 22

Main Stage:

7:00 pm                                Mad Satta

9:00 pm                                Thundercat

Saturday, May 23

Local Stage:

12:30 pm                              Tri-Cities High School Jazz Band

2:30 pm                                Jessie Davis & the Nebraska Jones Experiment

4:30 pm                                Kenosha Kid

6:30 pm                                Wolfpack ATL

International Stage:

1:30 pm                                North Atlanta Center for the Arts Jazz Band

3:30 pm                                Dida

5:30 pm                                Banda Magda

7:30 pm                                Alfredo Rodriguez Trio

Main Stage:

1:00 pm                                Contemporary Violinist Daniel D.

3:00 pm                                The Rad Trads

5:00 pm                                Marcus Strickland Twi-Life

7:00 pm                                Otis Brown III

9:00 pm                                Derrick Hodge

 

Sunday, May 24

Local Stage:

12:30 pm                              Joe Gransden and his Big Band

2:30 pm                                Mastery

4:30 pm                                Jeff Sparks

6:30 pm                                Tony Hightower

International Stage:

1:30 pm                                Fernanda Noronha

3:30 pm                                Strings from Haiti

5:30 pm                                Emrah Kotan

7:30 pm                                Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

Main Stage:

1:00 pm                                Navy Band Southeast: VIP Protocol Combo

3:00 pm                                Four Women: A Tribute to Nina Simone – Featuring Kathleen Bertrand, Julie Dexter, Rhonda Thomas and Terry Harper

5:00 pm                                Nettwork Trio: Charnett Moffett, Stanley Jordan, and Jeff “Tain” Watts

7:00 pm                                Diane Schuur

9:00 pm                                Pharoah Sanders Quartet featuring Kurt Rosenwinkel

Best Jazz Albums of 2014 – A Closer Look: Part 4 of 5

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2014 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2014 by curtjazz

michael deaseIn our penultimate look at our Best Jazz Albums of 2014, we have an artist who appears twice; once at the front of his familiar Afro-Latin Jazz Band and again as a part of a newly formed “super-group”. We also have a remarkable vocalist, who records far too infrequently, delivering another impressive album. A teacher-student pairing has borne fruit that is musically delicious. And a hardworking big band sideman takes the reins and shows how well he can perform when in the driver’s seat.

  • The Offense of the Drum – Arturo O’Farrill (Motema) The son of Afro-Cuban Jazz royalty produces his most eclectic album to date and in doing so, breathes a bit of freshness and excitement into a genre that has grown somewhat stale. Special guests such as harpist Edmar Castaneda (“Cuarto de Colores”) and saxophonist Donald Harrison (“Iko Iko”) light a fire. Then along comes pianist Vijay Iyer with a knotty piece (“The Mad Hatter”) to fan the flames further before spoken word artist “Chilo” and DJ Logic blow the roof off, on an anthem of Puerto Rican pride (“They Came”). Underneath it all, the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra keeps the pressure on, driving each guest and soloist to be at the top of their game. Give us more like this Arturo. Please! 
  • Promises to Burn – Janice Borla Group (Tall Grass)  Every few years, Janice Borla, IMO, one of the finest pure jazz voices alive, takes a break from her busy schedule of teaching, clinics and jazz camps to record a new album. In doing so, she reminds me of what I find so interesting about her artistry. There are many who can stand in front of a band and sing. Ms. Borla makes her voice an integral instrument in the band. Many singers use the appellation “voice” as an affectation, for Janice Borla it is a spot-on description. Oh yeah. In case you’re wondering, Promises to Burn is a terrific album. Ms. Borla and Co. take mostly unfamiliar instrumental works by jazz musicians such as Jack DeJohnette, Bob Mintzer and Joey Calderazzo and bring out their vocal best.  
  • The Puppeteers – The Puppeteers (Red) From 2006 through 2011, one of the best places in New York to check out jazz musicians as they tried out new ideas was Puppet’s Jazz Bar in Brooklyn. There, owner/drummer Jamie Affoumado and many other musicians found a more friendly environment than existed on most of the tough NYC club scene. It was also there that Mr. Affoumado first teamed with bassist Alex Blake, pianist Arturo O’Farrill and vibraphonist Bill Ware to jam. After the club’s closing, Mr. Affoumado teamed with attorney Dana Hall to form Puppet’s Records. The label’s first release is an album by the four musicians, who call themselves, appropriately, The Puppeteers. It is an auspicious debut, with each member of the collective contributing at least one tune and innumerable ideas, learned from all of their years on the scene working with  musical heavies from Randy Weston to Steely Dan to Jaco Pastorious and beyond. Their sound is definitively jazz but with the groups pedigree, there are strong notes of Afro-Latin, soul and even a little rock in the mix. Whatever it is, it works. Looking forward to what’s coming from Puppet Records and The Puppeteers.   
  • Questioned Answer – Brian Lynch & Emmet Cohen (Hollistic Music) Trumpet master Brian Lynch first met the young pianist Emmet Cohen on the 2011 Jazz Cruise, where Mr. Lynch was featured and Mr. Cohen was showcased with a trio from the U. of Miami, where he was an undergrad. As fate would have it, a few months later, Lynch became a trumpet professor at The U. They began to play and practice together on a regular basis as a duo, sharpening the musical bond that they had first recognized on the cruise. After about a year of shedding, they recorded this album, which was finally released this year, thanks to generous Kickstarter support. Consisting of duo and quartet (w/ Billy Hart and Boris Kozlov) performances, the album is another feather in the cap of Lynch, who just keeps getting better. It is also an exciting debut  by young Mr. Cohen who possesses great facility and an astuteness that is way beyond his years. I can hear what impressed Mr. Lynch so much on that cruise.
  • Relentless – Michael Dease (Posi-Tone) I should have seen this one coming but it still caught me by surprise.  Trombonist Michael Dease has done some fine work before, releasing four impressive albums as a leader of small groups. He has also been in the trombone sections of big bands led by Roy Hargrove, Jimmy Heath, Charles Tolliver and others, sometimes handling the arranging chores. So it’s a natural progression for this 32-year-old Georgian to take his best arrangements and put them on display in his own big band. The charts are complex, strong and they swing like mad. Mr. Dease has learned his lessons well and put them to good use. 

Tracks from all 25 albums in our 2014 Best Of list, may be heard on Curt’s Cafe Noir WebJazz radio, our free, streaming radio station, from now throughout January 2015. Click HERE to access the station.

Our next post will include the final five albums on our alphabetical list.

Until then, the jazz continues…

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2014

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2014 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2014 by curtjazz

ali jacksonThe Pop Music press went apoplectic when Beyoncé and a few others, dropped their latest projects online in the middle of the night, with no advance promotion.When I heard that my first thought was: Oh, please! In jazz, we call that “Tuesday”.

The fact that an eclectic release schedule has become the norm, did force me to play catch-up on a few releases in the last month. I’m glad I did as several of them went right from my ears to this list.

I’m also breaking my “tradition” in that I’m publishing the full list first. Since it is relatively late this year, I figured that we’d cut to the chase and then follow with the rationales and video clips in several posts over the next week. I also was unable to get out a mid-term list this year so instead we’re doing it in one glorious heap.

That said, her are 25 Jazz projects that moved me this year, in alpha order by album title. Comments and disagreements are always welcomed:

Tracks from these albums and more can be heard on Curt’s Cafe Noir, our 24/7 streaming jazz radio station, starting December 27th, through most of January 2015.

We wish you all a very Happy, Healthy and Blessed Holiday Season.

Until the next time, the Jazz Continues…

Grammys 2012 Nominees – Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Posted in 2012 Grammys, The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault with tags , , , , , , on February 11, 2012 by curtjazz

The nominees in this category are mostly familiar names, with the possible exception of Miguel Zenón. Two of the albums here probably ended up in this grouping because of the elimination of the Latin Jazz category.

The Nominees Are:

Randy Brecker with DR Big Band – The Jazz Ballad Songbook (Half Note): Track “All or Nothing at All”

Frankly, this nomination is a bit of a  head scratcher.  Randy Brecker is a gifted musician without a doubt, and the Danish Radio Big Band has done some fine work on many, many recordings.  But the arrangements here border on pedestrian and the whole date feels as generic as its title.  The exception is our feature track, which is first rate.  Still, don’t be surprised if Mr. Brecker wins this award, based mostly on name recognition.

Christian McBride Big Band – The Good Feeling (Mack Avenue)

The finest jazz bassist under 40 has now added a big band to his impressive repertoire. The Good Feeling is a solid first effort with a number of impressive tracks and creative arrangements from Mr. McBride’s pen.

Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra – 40 Acres and a Burro (Zoho): Featured Track: “40 Acres and a Burro”

Arturo O’Farrill continues to do his father’s legacy proud, as he has created another thought-provoking album, that has as much for your mind as it does for your feet. If this album were in the Latin Jazz category, it would be a strong contender. But now, it’s a bit of a longshot.

Gerald Wilson – Legacy (Mack Avenue)

Gerald Wilson has been arranging leading big bands since the days of Basie, Ellington and Goodman and he shows no sign of slowing down at age 93, writing arrangements that are dense, complex, brassy and swinging all at once. This album, Legacy is up to the fine standards that he has been hitting regularly for the past 15 years. A sentimental favorite.

Miguel Zenón – Alma Adentro [The Puerto Rican Songbook] (Marsalis Music)

Another album that would have likely competed in the now defunct Latin Jazz category, Alma Adentro is a stunning work of art. (A Curt’s Cafe Best of 2011) Mr. Zenón is at the top of his artistic game and it shows in the brilliance of his arrangements of these songs by some of Puerto Rico’s most celebrated composers.  Because he is a relative unknown, Zenón is not considered a favorite in the voting, but this is the best album of those nominated. If there’s any justice, Alma Adentro will win.