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O’Farrill’s newest undertaking can be called a combination of music and current events, and it brings together musicians from the U.S. and Cuba to create an elegant array of music, from Cuban popular styles such as bolero, guaguancó, and guajira, to Trinidad and Tobago soca, Peruvian festejo, and Northern African Islamic melodies.
Directed by pianist, composer, and educator Arturo O’Farrill, the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble (ALJE) is an octet made up of some of the most virtuosic musicians in jazz today. Their repertoire honors the pioneers of Latin jazz, like Mario Bauzá and Tito Puente, while keeping a strong foothold in progressing that music by performing contemporary compositions of the genre.
O’Farrill was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. He received his formal musical education at the Manhattan School of Music and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. O’Farrill’s professional career began with the Carla Bley Band, and he continued as a solo performer with a wide spectrum of artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis, and Harry Belafonte.
O’Farrill’s well-reviewed and highly praised “Afro Latin Jazz Suite” from the album Cuba: The Conversation Continues (Motéma) took the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition as well as the 2016 Latin Grammy Award (his fifth Grammy) for Best Latin Jazz Recording. In addition, his composition “Three Revolutions” from the album Familia: Tribute to Bebo and Chico also received the Best Instrumental Composition Grammy in 2018.
In 2007, he founded the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the performance, education, and preservation of Afro Latin music. Learn more about ALJA here: afrolatinjazz.org.