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Chico O’Farrill

Widely regarded as one of the master architects of Afro Cuban Jazz, Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill almost became a lawyer. Born into an Irish-German-Cuban family in the Havana region of Cuba, Chico was slated to follow in the family tradition and enter into law practice. Luckily as a teenager he was sent to study in the United States, where he heard the sounds that would change his life and revolutionize jazz, the trumpet and the big band. After studying at the Havana Conservatory and performing in the nightclubs, Chico decided to move to New York where he continued his musical studies with Stefan Wolpe of the Juilliard School and gradually integrated himself into the New York Jazz scene. It was there that Benny Goodman who had trouble pronouncing his name dubbed him Chico and hired him almost immediately as a staff arranger. During his tenure with Goodman O’Farrill penned one of Bennys’ biggest big band hits, “Undercurrent Blues”.

The Forties and Fifties were a prolific and important era in Chico’s career. It was during this period that he composed what is universally regarded by critics and fans throughout the world as the crown jewel of the Afro Cuban Jazz Genre, the extended, multi-movement work, “The Afro Cuban Jazz Suite” recorded with Charlie Parker, Flip Phillips and Buddy Rich. He also wrote countless other works for Machito, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Kenton, and for many others including his own orchestras.

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