Saturday, March 10, 2018

Arturo O'Farrill & Chucho Valdés Familia

Arturo O'Farrill & Chucho Valdés
Familia: Tribute To Bebo & Chico
Motema Music

Bebo Valdés and Chico O'Farrill, along with Machito and Mario Bauzá, were major innovators of Afro Cuban jazz. On this double CD collaboration, there sons, Arturo and Chucho, along with grandsons, Adam and Zack O'Farrill and Jesse and Leyanis Valdés, play tribute in a wonderful celebration of original music, with a "dazzling display of musicality and striking musicality" to quote executive producer Kahir Sehgal.

The first CD features Bebo and Chico with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra or six spectacular performances starting with a joyous merengue the two composed, "Bebochicochuchoturo," opens with Arturo's cadenza, ending with Chucho's cadenza, with brilliant solos from both as well as blazing trumpet from Jesse Ricardo Anduz, set against a brilliant orchestration and the surging rhythms. The title of Arturo's "Three Revolutions" refers the three generations of the families and the revolutionary musical environments they were affected by and affected. It is the most experimental composition employing atonalism, delayed resolution and free improvisations with Arturo and Chucho dazzling in their respective solos with the swirling horns and vigorous percussion adding to the fireworks here.

While the rest of this first disc is of a similar level, one takes note of the elegant, soaring melody and scrumptious harmonies of "Ecuación" that Bebe composed (with lovely trumpet from Seneca Black); Chucho's tribute to his father "Tema De Bebo" which provides a view at the contrasting, brilliant piano styles of the two leaders; Chico's, "Pianitis," that Machito commissioned Chico to write for his son that opens sonorously before a rhythmic explosion before returning to a melodious conclusion; and "Fathers, Mothers, Sons Daughters," that Arturo composed and includes solos from among others Adam O'Farrill , and Leyanis Valdés (whose solo is for Arturo the highlight here) with Zack O'Farrill guesting on drums.

The second disc features the Third Generations Ensemble, a slightly smaller ensemble (a big little band) than the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra centered on Adam & Zach O'Farrill and Leyanis & Jesse Valdés. Adam contributed "Run and Jump," a bouncy original with a bass ostinato and some swirling clarinet from Ernesto Vega. Jesse wrote, "Recuerdo," dedicated to his grandfather and with a lovely theme that showcases Leyanis lyrical pianistic touch along with the mellow trumpet of Kali Rodríguez-Peña. After another melodious clarinet solo from Vega, Jesse then solos. Zack's "Gonki Gonki," referring to a phrase his father used to describe to his mother gigs he often played, is a lively performance with a scintillating opening piano solo from Leyanis along with a robust tenor sax solo from Chad Lefkowitz-Brown and trumpet fireworks exchanged between Kali Rodríguez-Peña and Jesus Ricardo Anduz on a terrific contemporary composition.

There are sublime solo performances by Arturo and Chucho in honor each other's father, followed by a highly spirited small ensemble performance led by Arturo and Chucho of Bebe's "Con Poco Coco," with Adam's trumpet and a very percussive rhythm section with Gregg August impressing on his bass solo. The album closes with "Raja Ram," composed in part by producer Sehgal and inspired by Gandhi and an arrangement of a favorite tune of Gandhi in part looking at his own heritage. It features Arturo on piano and Anoushka Shankar (daughter of Pandit Ravi Shankar) on sitar who adds her own brilliant contribution. Sehgal notes that he and Arturo have dreamed of recording in India so this might be a hint of a 'future adventure.' It is an intriguing close to a remarkable recording.

I received my review copy from Motema Music. This review originally appeared in the November-December Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 375). Here Arturo O'Farrill & Chucho Valdés perform "Three Revolutions."

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