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Arturo O'Farrill: Risa Negra

Woodrow Wilkins By

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It's been said that music is universal. Pianist Arturo O'Farrill takes the concept a step further, bringing an ensemble representative of the universe known as Earth.

O'Farrill won the 2009 Grammy in the Latin Jazz category for Song for Chico (Zoho, 2008), which also earned him the Best Latin Jazz Album award from Jazz Journalists Association. For Risa Negra, he brings in a diverse ensemble of musicians, representing the Caribbean, Midwestern United States, Latin America, Russia and India.

Alto saxophonist David Bixler's quirky "Goat Check" opens with the sound of an animal bleating. Bixler leads, later joined by trumpeter Jim Seeley, with O'Farrill mostly in the background on Fender Rhodes. Bixler solos after Seeley's free-spirited feature, with O'Farrill then vigorously tickling the keys, accompanied only by bassist Boris Kozlov (who also solos) and drummer Vince Cherico.

Bixler's straightforward jazz composition, "The Darkness Is My Closest Friend," features a soft, elegant melody with alto sax and trumpet harmonizing. The piece warms up during Bixler's solo, with Kozlov, Cherico and O'Farrill keeping time but stretch out a bit as well. After several tours of the melody, the horns light up just before giving way to O'Farrill for a mellow, yet passionate middle solo.

O'Farrill's son, trumpeter Adam, joins the ensemble for "Crazy Chicken," another quirky piece. An all-in effort largely colored by the play of brother Zachary on drums and percussionist Roland Guerrero, the trumpeter may lead and solo, but everyone gets a moment to shine.

Arturo O'Farrill treats Risa Negra as a family affair, with his sons and wife, Alison Deane, contributing. The music deviates from his usual high-energy, Latin style, instead shifting this way and that—bordering on symphonic one moment and doing an about-face toward something avant-garde the next.

Track Listing: One Ada 12 Mambo; Goat Check; Blue State Blues; The Darkness Is My Closest Friend; No Way Off; Crazy Chicken; Tabla Rasa : El Salon Cubano; Tabla Rasa: Tintal Tintal Deo, Ceviche; Alisonia.

Personnel: Arturo O'Farrill: piano, Fender Rhodes piano; Jim Seeley: trumpet; David Bixler: alto sax; Boris Koslov: acoustic and electric bass (1-5, 9, 10); Vince Cherico: drums (1-5, 7-10); Roland Guerrero: percussion; Ivan Renta: tenor sax (3, 6); Ricky Rodriguez: acoustic bass (3, 6-8); Alison Deane: piano (5, 7, 8); Badal Roy: tablas (8); Cecelia Tenconi: flute (7, 8); Heather Bixler: violin (8); Adam O'Farrill: trumpet (6); Zachary O'Farrill: drums (6).

Title: Risa Negra | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Zoho Music

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