Sensing Flight
The O'Farrill Brothers Band

Jazz families such as Brubeck, Marsalis, O'Farrill, and Pizzarelli have helped the art form both endure and thrive, and the third generation of O'Farrills is only just beginning to make an impact. The O"Farrill Brothers Band is co-led by 18-year-old trumpeter Adam and 21-year-old drummer Zack, the sons of pianist Arturo and grandsons of composer-arranger Chico O'Farrill. The music on Sensing Flight, their second CD after the 2011 Giant Peach, displays a maturity and polish that one might expect from an older, more veteran group of musicians, and not a sextet of young lions that includes Brazilian-born tenor saxophonist Livio Almeida, guitarist Gabe Schnider, pianist Adam Kromelow, and bassist Raviv Markovitz. As Arturo O'Farrill writes in his typically perceptive notes to this recording, "These six extraordinary musicians are in the throes of becoming unglued, detaching from the point of origin in their lives, in their careers, in their identities, and in their art." Adam O'Farrill is clearly the standout here, bringing six superb compositions to the session, as well as his highly expressive trumpet playing that appears to have no technical limitations. The band performs the often challenging arrangements with total commitment and an adventurous spirit, making for an enthralling listening experience.

O'Farrill's trumpet and Almeida's tenor play off each other to present the darting theme of "Drive," and Kromelow engages them to expand the texture. O'Farrill's soaring horn then blends contrapuntally and in exchanges with Schnider's insinuating guitar, followed by a similar heated set up between Almeida and Kromelow. The sextet comes together for one final multi-voiced blast to end the journey. The front line handles the quirky, staccato theme of Carla Bley's "Wrong Key Donkey" with determined flair, as Zack's drum fills raise the ante. Almeida's tempestuous solo is supplemented by Adam's spurting motif. Kromelow's animated improv falls somewhere amidst Cecil Taylor and Don Pullen. Zack's sprightly drum workout is enhanced in turn by an insistent tenor/trumpet vamp. "Monet" evolves from Markovitz's opening bass line, to an harmonically mysterious fragment of a theme, and to a soulfully luminous Schnider solo. A thoughtful Markovitz statement concludes with the bass pattern that began it all, prior to a thematic recap that draws you in aurally like a great painting would visually.

Almeida's "Action and Reaction" has a funky intro highlighted by Adam's New Orleans-style vocalized trumpet and Zack's sharp rhythms. The tenor/trumpet theme treatment is undulating hard bop with piano and guitar also getting in their licks. Kromelow's creative turn is Herbie Hancock-influenced, while the bold Markovitz comes across like Ron Carter. Adam's solo has a Freddie Hubbard-like swagger and technical proficiency. The extended reprise, and provocative trumpet/piano trades afterward, only further bring us back to the glorious Blue Note years of the "60's. "Mind Troubles" possesses an endearing shuffle rhythm that meshes perfectly with the loping bluesy nature of the melody, and its edgier bridge. Schnider's solo is gentle and warm, in contrast to Almeida's more boisterous and volatile outing.

Kromelow's darkly enchanting prelude to "Broken Wings" leads to the theme's adamant lament from Adam and Almeida. The brass man's solo utilizes a blaring tonality to advance its urgent message with great effect, but the pianist exhibits a more subdued, yet still passionate frame of mind in his delineation. The reprise allows Zack free reign to complement the assured eloquence of trumpet, sax, and piano, and the stable centering of Markovitz's bass. "Full Measure" commences with tenor and trumpet in counterpoint and an accompanying bass line bringing on the encapsulated theme, as well as Schnider's buoyantly lyrical flight in tandem with Kromelow's resolute chords. Thematic hooks set the stage for abbreviated but vital solos by Adam and Almeida, and their subsequent seamless and enthusiastic exchanges. Zack's crafty and tuneful presentation gives way to one last clarion call from tenor and trumpet.

"Upper Manhattan Medical Group" begins with a trumpet fanfare that flows logically and naturally to Adam's distinctive, richly-intoned interpretation of the Billy Strayhorn theme. His solo is a lyrical exposition that is both exuberant and again technically impressive. Kromelow's whirlwind improv receives tasteful and concentrated support from Markovitz and Zack, and the bassist's feature is a keeper as well. Adam's out chorus post-reprise, along with the pianist's responsive flourishes, make for a noteworthy resolution. Adam's stunning ballad theme, "Sensations," is split by first trumpet and then tenor, with Markovitz's bass figures serving an essential role. Sinuous trumpet and tenor interaction adds to the piece's dramatic, swelling, and emotionally sensitive character. The intense dialogue between Adam and Almeida near the very end is the stirring peak of this unforgettable track.

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Scott Albin