Like the great Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band, pianist Arturo O'Farrill's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra combines the best aspects of a big horn sound with small-group finesse and flexibility. Song for Chico, O'Farrill's tribute to his legendary father, evinces the influences of South American rhythms, hard bop and what might be termed "post-Latin," representing the latest branchings of a hybrid tree.
Well recorded, with clean separation between the parts, the ALJO sounds off with mucho cajones, negotiating radical dynamic and textural shifts with easy precision. "Caravan"'s opening ostinato figure leads to a macho rendition of the melody on the bass trombone, answered by a growling trumpet and kicked to the curb by a full-band tutti, followed by several short cycles of solos on tenor, trumpet and trombone, respectively, then a collective "controversia" (i.e. group-improv), a short piano interlude and another bravura shout section before a return to the head, winding down finally with sparse interplay between tumba, timbales and drum kit. And that's just for starters.
Other charts of note: "Such Love," with a lush chorale intro, contrapuntal textures and intricately layered parts; Dafnis Prieto's unusual and intriguing title track, containing fresh-sounding phraseology voiced in widespread chords and featuring a fine solo and standout cadenza by alto saxophonist Bobby Porcelli; Tom Harrell's "Humility," with its sweeping melody, pointillist horn hits and harmonized trills and Jim Seeley's "Starry Nights," which fully exploits the timbral palette of the bandrich harmonic 'pads,' saxophone soli, densely counterpoised instrument sections, cascading 'pyramid' chords and sparser segments for reliefproviding an apt platform to showcase the lyrical bass work of Ruben Rodriguez. O'Farrill's father probably would have loved the sound of this new Song.
Caravan; Such Love; Picadillo; A Song for Chico; Starry Nights; Cuban Blues; Humility; The Journey.
Michael Mossman: trumpet; Jim Seeley: trumpet; John Walsh: trumpet; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet; Reynaldo Jorge: trombone; Gary Valente: trombone; Luis Bonilla: trombone; Douglas Purviance: trombone; Bobby Porcelli: saxophones; Erica von Kleist: saxophones; Mario Rivera: saxophones; Ivan Renta: saxophones; Pablo Calogero: saxophones; Arturo O'Farrill: piano, artistic and musical director; Ruben Rodriguez: electric and baby bass; Vince Cherico: drums, timbales; Jimmy Delgado: timbales, bongo, bell; Tony Rosa: tumbadora.