The members of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO) were in Havana rehearsing for this record on December 17, 2014, when the news broke on Cuban television. After 53 years without diplomatic relations, Raúl Castro and Barack Obama came together to announce that the United States and Cuba would begin the process of normalization. The double CD that resulted from that session, Cuba: The Conversation Continues, fully realizes the spiritual intensity of that historical moment. That’s because, in addition to being a remarkable composer and musician, ALJO leader Arturo O’Farrill lives the legacy of Cuba’s embrace of American jazz. His father, Chico O’Farrill, in collaboration with such legends as Dizzy Gillespie, Chano Pozo, and Charlie Parker, put his heart and soul into creating the Afro-Cuban style and tradition. For the son, continuing this famous “conversation” in music that his father began more than 50 years ago has become a life’s work. The quality of the playing here, both by the ALJO and by guest soloists and composers such as Michele Rosewoman, is extraordinary; the whole project shines with the radiance of a new era.
You can catch Arturo O’Farrill and the ALJO on Thursday, November 5, at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. Call 893-3535 or see artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.