September 29, 2021- Today's Topic: Chico O'Farrill
Chico O’ Farrill was one of the prime creators of Afro-Cuban Jazz and one of the most successful in marrying American and Latin music together.
He was born Arturo O’ Farrill in Havana Cuba in 1921. His father was of Irish decent. As a young man he was sent to Military School in Georgia and learned to play the trumpet. He
also heard American Big Band Jazz for the first time. It had an enormous influence on his musical direction.
Back in Havana he studied with Cuban composer Felix Guerrero and played trumpet in several Havana based dance bands.
He came to New York in 1948 and began to realize the possibilities of bringing Latin elements into American jazz. He was preceded in New York by Machito, Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo
but it was Chico who set the standard as a composer/arranger.
His first significant work came as an arranger for Benny Goodman’s short-lived Bop Band. Chico’s original Undercurrent Blues was the most important piece to come out of Goodman’s
band at the time. It was Goodman who gave him the nickname Chico which stuck from that point forward.
When Norman Granz was planning the Machito Afro Cuban Jazz Suite, Mario Bauza suggested Chico to write it. The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite is one of the masterpieces of the genre.
This led to an association with Norman Granz that enabled Chico to begin recording as a leader. He followed up with The Afro Cuban Suite #2 as well as numerous sides in the early to
In 1955 he returned to Cuba before going on to Mexico City. He stayed in Mexico City until 1965 and was involved in many, now obscure, recordings as well as the classic Aztec Suite for
He returned to New York in 1965 and became in demand as an arranger working with many artists including Cal Tjader, Count Basie, Gato Barbieri, Clark Terry and was once again
reunited with Dizzy Gillespie and Norman Granz. He also did a tremendous amount of studio work at the time writing for many television commercials.
In 1995 he began recording again as a leader with the brilliant album Pure Emotion. Others followed like Heart of a Legend and Carambola. He continued to lead his big band until shortly
before his death in 2001.
His son Arturo took over the band at that time and has continued to carry his father’s legacy as well as establishing himself as a major jazz artist.
Concerning the mixture of Jazz and Afro-Cuban music, Mr. O'Farrill once said, that it’s ''a very delicate marriage. You can't go too much one way or the other. It has to be a blend. But you
have to be careful with how different styles come together. Otherwise music labeled Latin jazz could end up being like Glenn Miller with maracas, or Benny Goodman with congas. Latin jazz
is much deeper than that."