ARTURO O’FARRILL, pianist, composer, educator, and founder and Artistic Director of the nonprofit Afro Latin Jazz Alliance, was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. In 2002, Mr. O’Farrill created the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO) for Jazz at Lincoln Center due in part to a large and very demanding body of substantial music in the genre of Latin and Afro Cuban Jazz that deserves to be much more widely appreciated and experienced by the general jazz audience. His debut album with the Orchestra, Una Noche Inolvidable, earned a GRAMMY Award nomination in 2006 and the Orchestra’s second album, Song for Chico, earned a GRAMMY Award for Best Latin Jazz Album in 2009. In February 2011, Mr. O’Farrill and the ALJO released their third and newest album, 40 Acres and a Burro, which was nominated for a GRAMMY Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. He is the winner of the Latin Jazz USA Outstanding Achievement Award for 2003.
Educated at the Manhattan School of Music, Brooklyn College Conservatory (from which he received the Distinguished Alumnus Medal), and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, Mr. O’Farrill played piano with the Carla Bley Big Band from 1979 through 1983. He then went on to develop as a solo performer with a wide spectrum of artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Steve Turre, Freddy Cole, The Fort Apache Band, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis, and Harry Belafonte.
In 1995 Mr. O’Farrill agreed to direct the band that preserved much of his father’s music, the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, which recently concluded a 15-year residency at Birdland, New York City’s famed nightclub. In December 2010 Mr. O’Farrill traveled with the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra to Cuba, returning his father’s musicians to his homeland for headlining performances at the 26th edition of the Havana International Jazz Plaza Festival. In addition to playing with the ALJO and the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Mr. O’Farrill has performed throughout the world both as a solo artist and with his smaller groups.
Besides recording nine albums as a leader for Milestone Records, 32 Jazz, M&I, and Zoho (Bloodlines, A Night in Tunisia, Cumana Bop, Live in Brooklyn, The Jim Seeley/Arturo O’Farrill Quintet, Song for Chico, In These Shoes with Claudia Acuña, Risa Negra, and 40 Acres and a Burro), Mr. O’Farrill has appeared on numerous records including the GRAMMY-nominated Pure Emotion and the Latin GRAMMY-nominated Heart of a Legend, Carambola, and The Orisha Suite, as well as the soundtracks to the critically acclaimed films Calle 54 and Chico and Rita. Mr. O’Farrill was a special guest soloist at three landmark Jazz at Lincoln Center concerts—Afro-Cuban Jazz: Chico O’Farrill’s Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, November 1995; Con Alma: The Latin Tinge in Big Band Jazz, September 1998; and the 2001 Jazz at Lincoln Center Gala: The Spirit of Tito Puente, November 2001. In the spring and fall of 2002, he was also the featured artist in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz in the Schools Tour, when he led a Latin jazz quintet for more than 50 educational performances that reached over 10,000 students in NYC metropolitan area schools.
As an educator, he has taught master classes, seminars, and workshops throughout the world for students and teachers of all levels. Mr. O’Farrill served as the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist in Residence at Lafayette College. In the summer of 2007, Mr. O’Farrill served as Visiting Artist at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. From 2007-2008 he was Assistant Professor of Jazz at The University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and from 2008-2010, he served as Assistant Professor at SUNY Purchase. He is currently on faculty at Brooklyn College.
Over the past several years, Mr. O’Farrill has toured the U.S., Latin America, Europe, and Asia, and in the spring of 2006, led the ALJO on a tour of Mexico. In 2007, the ALJO left Jazz at Lincoln Center to pursue its own educational and performance opportunities. To that end, the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance was created as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the performance, education, and preservation of Afro Latin jazz.
Since its departure from Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Orchestra has performed at the prestigious Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Boston Symphony Hall, the Newport Jazz Festival, The Joyce Theater (with Ballet Hispanico), Megaron Concert Hall (Athens, Greece), Kannai Hall (Yokohama, Japan), the Taichung Jazz Festival (Taichung, Taiwan), and at New York’s acclaimed Symphony Space, where it has been in residence since 2007. The Alliance also established a residency in the schools program with weekly private and ensemble classes for inner-city kids.
A recognized composer, Mr. O’Farrill has received commissions from Meet the Composer, The Big Apple Circus, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Philadelphia Music Project, Symphony Space, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts. He has also composed music for films including Hollywoodland and Salud. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, classical pianist Alison Deane, and their sons, Zachary and Adam, who are both accomplished musicians. Mr. O’Farrill is a Steinway Artist.