Cuban Blues

COMPOSERS: Chico O’Farrill
LABELS: Verve
ALBUM TITLE: Chico O’farrill
PERFORMER: Chico O’Farrill (cond, arr) with big band including Mario Bauza (t); Eddie Bert, Bill Harris (tmb); Charlie Parker, Flip Philips, Danny Bank (saxes); Don Lamond (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 533 256-2 (distr. Polygram)

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In 1995, Pure Emotion (Milestone), Chico O’Farrill’s first album under his own name for 39 years, won a Grammy nomination. It signalled the return to the jazz scene of one of the true giants of Afro-Cuban jazz.

Without O’Farrill it is not unreasonable to suggest that Latin jazz would not be what it is today. He was around at its birth, when Mario Bauza, musical director, lead trumpet and brother-in-law of band leader Machito, first mixed Cuban rhythms and jazz improvisation.

By the late Forties, O’Farrill was providing Machito with ambitious scores such as ‘Gone City’ that mixed adventurous modern jazz with the rhythms of Cuba. In the Sixties O’Farrill contributed arrangements to Count Basie, Clark Terry and Dizzy Gillespie and, latterly, the big band Mario Bauza led from 1991 until his death.

This collection – which gathers all O’Farrill’s work with his own big band for Norman Granz’s Norgran and Clef labels between 1950 and 1954 – is an extension of his exciting work for Machito’s orchestra. Indeed his ambitious ‘Afro Cuban Jazz Suite’ for Machito and guest soloist Charlie Parker is included.

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These are true classics of Latin jazz; O’Farrill’s orchestrations consistently reveal an imagination and originality of great scope that refuses to be bound by cliché. SN