My posting yesterday on Chico O'Farrill attracted a fabulous response from Ivan Acosta, president of Latin Jazz USA, a film and concert production company in New York. Each year, Acosta's organization presents the "Chico O'Farrill Lifetime Achievement Award" to a musician who has helped bridge the gap between Latin and jazz music. Past recipients have included Dizzy Gillespie, Astrid Gilberto and Ray Baretto.
Here are Ivan's remarks:
"Excellent essay on Maestro Chico O'Farrill. Chico was indeed a prolific arranger and an inspiration to generations of jazz and Latin artists. He also was a gentle, kind man who always made time to help new artists find their way. We spent many hours talking about his career and his music.
Your readers may be interested to know that last year, the corner of West End Avenue and 88th St., near Chico's apartment, was named "Chico O'Farrill Way." As for recordings of his orchestrations, two of my favorites are Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite (1950/Verve), featuring Machito, Charlie Parker, Flip Phillips and Harry "Sweets" Edison; and Dizzy Gillespie y Machito: Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods (1975/OJC).
By any measure, O'Farrill's contribution to jazz is extraordinary. Sadly, jazz books and documentaries that explore the roots of jazz too often focus solely on the significance of New Orleans, Chicago and Kansas City but neglect Havana and the Afro-Cuban movement of the late1940s. Hopefully, future jazz historians will take a fresh look. You've certainly started the ball rolling!"
I couldn't agree more with Ivan's remarks. O'Farrill's Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite can be downloaded at iTunes from the same Verve collection mentioned yesterday. Or view it for free with O'Farrill conducting by going here.
And Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods, which is new to me and took me aback when I listened to it this morning, also is at iTunes. (Note to Concord Music Group: Perhaps it's time to remaster this one. It's a beaut!)
More wax picks: I just remembered that Chico O'Farrill arranged and conducted the horns on one of David Bowie's best CDs of the 90s, Black Tie, White Noise (1993). If you want to hear why Bowie selected O'Farrill, spend $1.29 and download Looking for Lester, which has been remastered. O'Farrill's horn arrangement is again way ahead of the curve—and in the rock idiom!