Personnel: Arturo O'Farrill (piano).
Liner Note Author: Arturo O'Farrill.
Recording information: The Noguchi Museum, Long Island City, NY (10/17/2011).
Photographers: R. Andrew Lepley; Eric Oberstein.
Arturo O'Farrill made a name for himself by following in his father's footsteps, leading a Latin big band and small groups, and writing arrangements and originals for them. But this 2011 session is his first playing solo piano, alone in the Noguchi Museum on Long Island after hours, with his favorite artist's work for inspiration. O'Farrill begins with an elaborate improvisation he called "The Sun at Midnight," which blends elements of classical music, Cuban jazz, post-bop, and more into a stunning performance. "Once I Had a Secret Meditation" is a brilliant re-imagination of the standard "Secret Love," a dramatic, shimmering effort that is reminiscent of some of Aaron Copland's writing for piano, especially in its hymn-like conclusion. His reworking of the 19th century minstrel song "O' Susanna" transforms the piece into a turbulent, harmonically rich showpiece worthy of comparison to Art Tatum's recordings. Randy Weston's "Little Niles" has long been a jazz standard, though O'Farrill gives this African-flavored work his personal stamp, mixing Cuban accents into the bassline while retaining the essence of the piece. The pianist finds the great Cuban classical composer Ernesto Lecuona's "Siboney" to be fertile ground for improvisation as well, embellishing its infectious melody with a lively touch. "Oh Danny Boy" was a favorite of Tatum as well, and O'Farrill's elaborate Latin interpretation is no less impressive, taking it well from its expected path. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the finale, a playful take of Charles Mingus' "Jelly Roll," an unjustly neglected work dedicated to a now-overlooked early great. O'Farrill's rendition starts out sublime but has rousing and playful moments. While Arturo O'Farrill has shown great success leading a big band and small groups, he needs to set aside additional recording dates for future solo piano projects. ~ Ken Dryden
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