Arturo O'Farrill Brings His Octet to Morning Jazz, Drawing From a New Album with Chucho Valdés

Sep 13, 2017

Arturo O’Farrill makes music steeped in the pantheon of Afro-Latin culture. He can’t help it. It’s in his DNA.

In addition to playing the piano, O’Farrill is a composer, arranger and bandleader — much like his father, the legendary Chico O’Farrill, whose band of the mid-1940s warped the dance floor of the famed Tropicana Club in Havana. Chico’s pianist at the time was Bebo Valdés, another Afro-Cuban legend — and the father of Chucho Valdés, who succeeded him as the preeminent figure in his field.

On the new Motéma album Familia: Tribute to Bebo and Chico, Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdés come together to pay tribute to their fathers, while pushing the expression significantly forward. The album expands the circle to a third generation by featuring trumpeter Adam O’Farrill and drummer Zack O’Farrill, along with pianist Leyanis Valdés and drummer Jessie Valdés.  

Arturo, who not only leads the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra but also composes and arranges for some of the country’s top dance companies, recently stopped by Morning Jazz for a performance with his firecracker Octet. And we talked about inspiration, expression and his urge to push the music forward.