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Arturo O'Farrill: Live in Brooklyn

John Kelman By

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With the advent of relatively inexpensive recording equipment, it's now possible to document almost any live performance. Some artists, in fact, record virtually every show and then piece together a live album from the best performances, as saxophonist Wayne Shorter has done on his new release, the outstanding Beyond the Sound Barrier.

But just because you can make a recording doesn't necessarily mean you should release it. Some performances, while unquestionably engaging for the audience at the time, don't have the kind of definition to make them worth reliving over and over again. And then there are artists, like ethnic multi-instrumentalist Stephan Micus, who steadfastly resist the temptation of releasing a live recording, being of the belief that ..."the beauty of a concert is that it happens once and then it's gone forever.

There's no question that pianist Arturo O'Farrill can play—in addition to being the musical director for his late father Chico O'Farrill's Afro-Cuban Big Band, both pre- and posthumously, he's worked over the years with a wide range of artists including Carla Bley, Dizzy Gillespie, and Papo Vazquez. And, in that time, he's proven himself to be comfortable both inside and outside the arena of Latin jazz. His recent recording with trumpeter Jim Seeley, The Jim Seeley/Arturo O'Farrill Quintet, was an enjoyable and refreshingly unassuming set of Latin jazz originals that recalled some of the classic recordings of the '60s Blue Note years. Unfortunately, however, O'Farrill's latest disc, Live in Brooklyn, featuring his trio with bassist Andy Gonzalez and drummer Dafnis Prieto, misses that mark and comes across as forced and perhaps too considered.

Not that they don't try; but that's ultimately the problem. In addition to covering well-heeled standards like Shorter's "Footprints, Horace Silver's "Peace, Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood, and Monk's "Well You Needn't, there's one piece by Gonzalez and, in an unusual move, two tunes by Carla Bley—the more rambunctious "Walking Batterie Woman and the tender, melancholic "Utviklinsang," which O'Farrill performs solo.

It is, in fact, O'Farrill's reading of "Utviklinsang that best exemplifies the problem that pervades the set. Instead of aiming for the more understated drama of the piece as Bley has recorded it, O'Farrill opts instead for broader-stroke melodrama. Powerful flourishes create a lot of dynamic tension and release in the tune, but it all feels so obvious. It's not that O'Farrill doesn't bring some personality to the piece, but in doing so, he tends to dilute the nuances that make the song what it is.

Elsewhere, the trio works its way through the set with confidence and competence, but no real fire. Sure, there's energy, but it feels more predetermined as opposed to the kind of sparks that fly when musicians are truly in synch with each other. While its more extravagant emotionalism might work if you're experiencing it in the venue, Live in Brooklyn ultimately comes across as too obvious: conclusive evidence that an entertaining performance does not necessarily translate into a lasting one.

Track Listing: Vieques; Walking Batterie Woman; Peace; Footprints; Utviklinsang; In a Sentimental Mood; Well You Needn't.

Personnel: Arturo O'Farrill: piano; Andy Gonzalez: bass; Dafnis Prieto: drums.

Title: Live In Brooklyn | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Zoho Music

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