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BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration

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A new album and a week of concerts is good news for everyone.

BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration

I am a visual person, so advertising matters a lot when it comes to catching my attention. Maybe I was born this way or maybe it comes from a lifetime of looking through the viewfinder of a camera - but it's how I am and it's not likely to change. Regularly, I study the calendars of the clubs and cabarets, looking for shows to see, and when it comes to an artist with whose work I am unfamiliar, the image that has been chosen to promote the show is the most important part of the artist's event page because that is what will stop me and make me read the show description. For weeks I have been reading the Birdland calendar, and for weeks I have been looking at this artwork:

BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration

To be blunt, this artwork is a turn-off for me. The orange overlay renders the photo difficult to look at, in fact, hard to decipher. The first time I saw the photo, I thought it was an abstract painting representing some part of the African or Latin cultures that informed the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble. It took a few viewings of the Arturo O'Farrill event page before it even registered to me as a photograph... but that isn't what piqued my interest enough for me to reserve my press seat to see the show. It was the cover art for the CD ...dreaming in lions... that has just been released on the Blue Note label. Now THAT is art.

BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration

I made my reservation at Birdland that day.

Boy, the time I wasted. I could kick myself for all the chances I had to feel this good and didn't.

BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration

Twenty-six years ago Arturo O'Farrill started a residency at Birdland, and his Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble has been going strong ever since, and with extremely good reason: they are amazing. The superlatives that could be heaped on the band are endless, and could fill this entire review, but the best way to find out just how exceptional this band is is to go see them live, because no matter how good an album is (and this writer WILL be picking up a copy of ...dreaming with lions... after hearing excerpts from it on Tuesday night) nothing can compare the live experience. Mr. O'Farrill is such a delight during his few spoken moments to the audience - there isn't a lot of opportunity for him to have a friendly gossip with the crowd because the musical offering is abundant - and most of his rhetoric leans into brief explanations into the history of the compositions, the background behind the creation of the pieces, or praise for his fellow musicians. Nevertheless, he is quite charming, very likable, and though the other members of the band do not speak at all, watching them, wordlessly, communicate during the set gives a kind of feel for how amiable they all are. O'Farrill himself declares that "We are mad scientists attempting to do crazy things... anything could happen up here," and he is quite right. The set on Tuesday night was a musical adventure to be taken again and again - and since the band is in residence, you can. Speaking personally, I would pay to feel this good once a week - it's just too bad there isn't a dance floor, because everyone was boogie-ing in their seats, not a surprise, since it was obvious that the patrons of the club were there because they are INTO this music.

But you don't have to be into it to have a good time.

BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration There is every chance that the name The Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble may be a bit intimidating. Many people are nervous about a jazz show because the word jazz can conjure images of experimental music using odd-looking percussive instruments, motorcycle motors, and constantly changing time signatures to make discordant music to which one cannot relate. Add to that the words Afro and Latin and one might wonder if the band plays music deriving from tribal cultures of Africa and the colonies of South America and the Caribbean. Well, guess what, all of that is true (except the motorcycle thing), right down to the varied percussion instruments: the music that O'Farrill & co. are playing is informed by many different elements, and that is what makes it so exciting and listenable (and remember, dance-able). These are world-class musicians playing compositions that are melodically more than satisfying and rhythmically lavishly joyous, and no person should feel any amount of reluctance in attending one of their shows, though everyone should consider a few tips, once actually inside the walls of Birdland to see the band.

Because this is a show of instrumental music people may feel a strong inclination toward talking to their friends during the program. It's a mistake. There is great value in sitting and listening, in going on the journey being offered in the compositions and in the playing of said compositions. There is emotional content, there are visceral reactions, there is benefit in remaining silent and paying attention. For these seventy-five minutes (give or take), there is purpose in shutting off the phone and in shutting off the mouth... but not the mind! Listen, pay attention, enjoy the ride.

BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration Pick a musician and spend a few minutes watching them work, observing the way they interact with their colleagues and with their instrument. Witness their commitment to the music, and to their craft. There are nine men on the stage - the observation of each of them can take up a significant chunk of time, and there is beauty in the observance of an artist at work. It can really enhance the experience, one with the possibility of filling you with joy. However anyone should choose to absorb the artistry of Arturo O'Farrill and The Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble, the bottom line is that the choice to do so is available, and it should be made. They are there, at Birdland, every week, and this week they are playing every night, in celebration of the new CD, so the chance to catch them in the act is all around. Take it.

How often do you get to see a team of Mad Scientists at work?

For information and tickets on the Birdland performances of Arturo O'Farrill AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE visit the Birdland website HERE.

HERE is the website for Arturo O'Farrill AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE

The musicians playing Tuesday night and all this week are:

Arturo O'Farrill - Piano/Keyboard

Bam Rodríguez - Bass

Vince Cherico & Zack O'Farrill - Drums

Victor Pablo - Percussion & Marimba

Carly Maldonado- Percussion & Glockenspiel

Rafi Malkiel - Trombone/Euphonium

Jim Seeley - Trumpet

Ivan Renta - Saxophones/ flute

Juanma Trujillo - guitar

BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration

BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration

BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration

BWW Review: ARTURO O'FARRILL AND THE AFRO LATIN JAZZ ENSEMBLE RECORD RELEASE At Birdland Is Cause For Celebration Photos by Stephen Mosher


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