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Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra with Arturo O’Farrill: Una Noche Inolvidable

There is nothing more exciting, more sensuous, than the fusion of jazz and Latin. With New York’s Lincoln Center now the home of Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, the history and future of that hybrid genre seems assured. Having stated that, it’s sad to report that Una Noche Inolvidable (One Unforgettable Night) is somewhat disappointing. O’Farrill has said “Jazz and Latin have their roots in dance.” But this album is based on his own program, “celebration of the great Latin jazz vocalists.”

Eleven of the 13 tracks are devoted to the songs of Claudia Acuna and Herman Olivera, depriving us of the orchestral passion that O’Farrill can induce from his 17 cohorts. Only one track, “Havana Special,” a chart by Arturo’s dad, Chico O’Farrill, catches on fire, thanks to the intense percussion and trumpeter John Walsh. The other instrumental, “Pianarabatibiri,” is a tame showcase for the pianist-leader. Acuna is a rangy, first-class stylist, with her best effort being “Volver a Los 17.” Check out Walsh on the intro, plus the uncredited trombonist on “Volver.” Olivera’s best number, “Buscando La Melodia,” brightens with altoist Bobby Porcelli’s solo and Walsh’s screeching. But O’Farrill should have done better with the forces at his disposal.

Originally Published