GRAMMY® Award-winning composer/pianist/educator Arturo O’Farrill and his non-profit The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance (ALJA) travel to Cuba for a trailblazing cultural diplomacy trip of repatriation for late Latin jazz legend Chico O’Farrill in honor of his 95th birthday. The revolutionary journey includes an official ceremony commemorating Chico’s legacy and his long awaited return to Cuba at the Basilica of San Francisco de Asís in Havana. What appeared to be impossible until relations were restored between the United States and Cuba, Arturo O’Farrill fulfills his father’s greatest dream of returning to his birthplace. A sojourn deeply connecting a son and father, the arrival of Chico to his ancestral land comes nearly 70 years after his departure from Cuba.
“A son of Cuba returns home after decades,” says Arturo O’Farrill. “I felt the will of my father and his need to rest from whence he came. It became my duty to see this through. Our journey is not about politics, ideology, nationalism or patriotism, but instead shows how love is more powerful than time, distance or human pettiness. This moment was born in a dream, but realized by people of good will, Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro and all those who’ve labored tirelessly to see that Cuba and the United States have a common destiny yet to be fulfilled but written in the stars and in the hearts of fathers, mothers, sons and daughters.”
A modern day “jazz ambassador,” Arturo O’Farrill has been on the frontlines for more than a decade fighting for political normalization between the U.S. and Cuba. The pianist’s 2016 GRAMMY® win for “The Afro Latin Jazz Suite” (Cuba: The Conversation Continues, Motéma Music) marks a milestone for O’Farrill’s pioneering work in Cuba. The forthcoming eight-day excursion further bridges the divide that has separated the two nations for over a half a century. The people of Cuba’s invitation for Chico’s return to his homeland is an act of generosity, forgiveness and humility that sends the world a message: culture, community and love are bigger than ideological or political differences.
Throughout the trip to Cuba from December 9 – 16, ALJA hosts standout historical and educational offerings, including a special live performance by Arturo O’Farrill and members of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra with the Havana Chamber Orchestra conducted by Guido Lopez Gavilan (Basilica de San Fracisco de Asis); an official visit with Maria Rosa Hernández (Dean of Music) at Cuba’s preeminent arts university, Instituto Superior de Arte; and a special performance at the newly refurbished Palacio O’Farrill.
ALJA and O’Farrill invite the media and public to join them on this unparalleled expedition celebrating Chico’s incredible musical contributions to the world of jazz. Detailed information regarding tours and performances led by celebrated local artists, museum and live music venue visits, educational institution tours, and more can be found on afrolatinjazz.org/return-to-the-birth-land-chicos-ashes-go-back-to-cuba
In the New Year (Jan. 27 & 28, 2017), ALJA presents the stateside celebration for Chico’s 95th birthday featuring big band arrangements from two of the most central figures in the Golden Age of Cuban music: Chico O’Farrill and Bebo Valdés. Arturo O’Farrill and GRAMMY® Award-winning pianist Chucho Valdés will perform alongside their own children as they pay tribute to their fathers’ celebrated works and pass the torch to the next generation of Afro-Cuban stars. Additional concert information will soon be listed on afrolatinjazz.org.
About Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra
GRAMMY Award winning pianist, composer and educator Arturo O’Farrill — leader of the “first family of Afro-Cuban Jazz” (New York Times) — was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. Son of the late, great composer Chico O’Farrill, Arturo was educated at Manhattan School of Music, Brooklyn College Conservatory and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. He played piano in Carla Bley’s Big Band from 1979 through 1983 and earned a reputation as a soloist in groups led by Dizzy Gillespie, Steve Turre, Freddy Cole, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis and Harry Belafonte. In 2002, he established the GRAMMY® winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra in order to bring the vital musical traditions of Afro Latin jazz to a wider general audience, and to greatly expand the contemporary Latin jazz big band repertoire through commissions to artists across a wide stylistic and geographic range.
Following his 2009 GRAMMY® Award for “Best Latin Jazz Album” for the Orchestra’s debut recording, Song for Chico (ZOHO), O’Farrill has received numerous GRAMMY® nominations and most recently two GRAMMY® wins for The Offense of the Drum (“Best Latin Jazz Album”) and Cuba: The Conversation Continues (“The Afro Latin Jazz Suite,” “Best Instrumental Composition”).
Arturo O’Farrill is an artist in residence at Harlem School of the Arts and Casita Maria Center for Arts & Culture, and on the faculty of Brooklyn College and the Manhattan School of Music. He’s currently collaborating with director Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater on an Afro Cuban version of Bizet’s opera, Carmen. He is also a member of the Board of Governors of the New York Chapter of NARAS, and is a Steinway Artist.