The Complete Norman Granz Recordings; Live in Brooklyn; The Jim Seeley/Arturo O'Farrill Quintet

Brandt Reiter By

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Chico O'Farrill
The Complete Norman Granz Recordings
Lone Hill Jazz

The rise of the compact disc has meant reissue after reissue, but more than two decades into the shiny little disc's lifespan, reissues themselves are now being reissued, albeit often with new packaging and a "bonus track or two. So it is with Lone Hill Jazz's The Complete Norman Granz Recordings of Chico O'Farrill. Of the double disc's 46 tracks (all recorded between 1950-54), all but one have appeared previously together—in nearly identical non-chronological order—on Verve's Cuban Blues: Chico O'Farrill Sessions.

Anyone who's got Cuban Blues can rest easy—the new collection's "bonus 46th track, Maria Mendez Grever's "Muñequita Linda, is a slow, pokey and brief romantic bolero replete with harp and wandering flute that will hold tremendous appeal only to obsessive collectors and O'Farrill fanatics. But The Complete Norman Granz Recordings is an excellent collection, with 150-plus minutes of some of the most infectious and exciting Latin jazz on record.

The better the band, the more O'Farrill soars; the less talented the players, the more subdued the arrangements and the less swinging they become. Though some listener weariness may set in approaching the second hour mark—these were, remember, recordings meant for 10 records, not lengthy CDs—the music as a whole should delight anyone with an ear for Latin jazz. One quibble on the repackaging, though: Why not chronological order, for once? If you haven't heard O'Farrill's thrilling, noir-ish arrangement of "It Ain't Necessarily So, I highly recommend checking out the new disc.

Arturo O'Farrill
Live in Brooklyn
Zoho Music

By the '70s, O'Farrill was devoting much time to writing for television shows and commercials; it wasn't until 1995, with the release of his first disc in 29 years, the wonderful Pure Emotion, that O'Farrill exploded back (as elder statesman) into public view. A weekly gig leading his Afro-Cuban Orchestra at NYC's Birdland followed and upon O'Farrill's death in 2002, his son, Arturo, took over the baton. An accomplished pianist in his own right, Arturo is no carbon copy of his father, as this year's Live in Brooklyn almost defiantly displays.

The disc is a high-powered trio date, recorded over two August nights at the Up Over Jazz Cafe with Nuyorican bassist Andy Gonzalez (O'Farrill's compatriot in the top-notch Lincoln Center Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra) and Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto. For a band of this pedigree, it's not the Latin showcase one might expect. The swinging post-bop program consists of one Gonzalez original, "Vieques, two by Carla Bley (an early O'Farrill employer), and one high classic each by four holiest of jazz holies, Thelonious Monk ("Well You Needn't ), Wayne Shorter ("Footprints ), Horace Silver ("Peace ), and Duke Ellington ("In a Sentimental Mood ). While far from dominant, Latin rhythms intrude (and recede) throughout. They account for most of "Vieques but crop up only intermittently in other places; they sneak in full force for a few seconds in the eleven-minute "Footprints, then just as suddenly the band's off on a bop tear. While not a ground-breaker, the record is a fine musical statement from a son who respects his father but is determined to stay out of his shadow.

The Jim Seeley/Arturo O'Farrill Quintet
The Jim Seeley/Arturo O'Farrill Quintet
Zoho Music

Arturo O'Farrill is listed as co-leader on the eponymous Jim Seeley/Arturo O'Farrill Quintet, but there's no mistaking the disc is by Kansas-born trumpeter Jim Seeley; he's credited with all the compositions and dominates the soloing opportunities. The disc is a grab-bag of post-bop style: bluesy hard bop (the Art Blakey tribute "Truth Juice ); mid-tempo samba ("Solita ); dusky bossa ("Starry Night ); straight ahead blues ("New Meaning ); and Miles-ish lament (the fleeting "Child's Toy ). Seeley's an able writer, the music's well-played, everyone gets along fine and nobody overstays their welcome. What the disc could use is a bit more rude, jostling oomph—one wishes the players weren't being quite so damn polite.

Tracks and Personnel

Complete Norman Granz Recordings

Tracks: CD1: Avocadoes; Taboo; JATP Mambo; Duerme; Almendra; The Disappearance; Cuban Blues; Sin Titulo; Dance One; Bright One; Flamingo; Last One; Tierra Va Tembla; Vamos Pa La Rumba; Mambo Korula; Frizilandia; Peanut Vendor; Ill Wind (You're Blowin' Me No Good); Malaguena; Castigala; The Second Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite Muñequita Linda. CD2: Havana Special; Carioca; Fiesta Time; Heat Wave; It Ain't Necessarily So; Guess What; Cry Baby Blues; Lamento; You Stepped Out Of A Dream; Cachita; Rumbonsito; Te Quiero Dijiste; Siboney; Angels' Flight; Tres Palabras; No Te Importe Saber; Vaya Con Dios; Pianarabatibiri; L.A. Mambo; Quireme Mucho; More Mambo; Mambo For Bunto; Botellero; Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite.

Live in Brooklyn

Tracks: 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.

Jim Seeley/Arturo O'Farrill Quintet

Tracks: Truth Juice; Solita; Starry Night; Little General; Forest Path; New Meaning; Cha-Cha Un-Uh; Child's Toy.

Personnel: Jim Seeley: trumpet; Arturo O'Farrill: electric and acoustic piano; Jed Levy, tenor saxophone, flute; Andy Gonzalez: acoustic bass; Phoenix Rivera: drums, percussion.


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