Arturo O’Farrill, Legacies Review
by Jeff Becker
Pianist and 8-time GRAMMY-winner Arturo O’Farrill revisits his foremost passion, the piano, in his new Blue Note album, Legacies. O’Farrill delivers 9 tracks alternating between engaging solo piano performances and dynamic trio collaborations with his son, drummer Zack O’Farrill, and bassist Liany Mateo. The album features an eclectic repertoire, including works by Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Carla Bley, Chico O’Farrill, Pedro Flores, and O’Farrill’s own composition. Legacies marks O’Farrill’s first piano trio album since 2005, highlighting his unparalleled ability to interpret and perform historic jazz tunes and original pieces.
Thelonious Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t” has a stirring introduction to the theme that combines classical, Latin Jazz, and modern jazz harmonic structures before a playful and highly expressive statement of the theme. O’Farrill has a balanced ear for counterpoint and melodic and harmonic textures. His ideas effortlessly flow up and down the register of the piano with clarity and ease. Though this is a solo piano performance, plenty of complex textures, complex movement, and energy keep the lister entertained. O’Farrill delivers a profound, insightful, and virtuosic interpretation of this well-known theme to showcase his skills as an improviser and interpreter.
“Blue State Blues” is an O’Farrill original that combines his straight-ahead jazz playing with his avant-garde textures. O’Farrill’s melody is playful, and his son and Mateo join him for this selection. O’Farrill’s solo incorporates intricate harmonies, rhythmic complexity, and a strong sense of melody as he builds ideas that swing between traditional jazz and avant-garde. Zack’s drum solo is fluid and plays off the montuno with playful ideas and cross-rhythms. By integrating syncopated rhythmic figures and a montuno into his original composition, O’Farrill pays homage to his Cuban heritage and continues pushing the rich tapestry of Afro-Cuban music while blending it with his unique style and oblique approach. This fusion of styles is one of the reasons O’Farrill’s music stands out as a modern and innovative perspective in the Latin jazz and jazz genre.
Arturo O’Farrill’s Legacies album is a testament to his remarkable musicianship and ability to seamlessly blend diverse musical influences. The album flows with an ingenious fusion of traditional jazz, Latin jazz, and avant-garde elements equally applied to the well-known jazz tunes, his original piece, and his father’s composition “Pure Emotion.” O’Farrill demonstrates his deep understanding of various styles and his prowess as an improviser and interpreter both in a trio and solo setting. The remarkable chemistry between Zack and Mateo elevates the trio selections. In addition, O’Farrill pays tribute to his Cuban roots by incorporating montunos and other Afro-Cuban rhythms and elements, and he continues to carve out an innovative space within the Latin jazz and jazz landscape. While his playing may occasionally come across as overly complex and sacrificing strong motivic development and traditional jazz’s beautiful eighth note drive, the emotional resonance that O’Farrill exudes is genuine and will captivate the focused listener. Overall, Legacies offers a compelling and engaging listening experience that showcases the incredible talent of a true piano virtuoso.