With Cuba: The Conversation Continues (Motéma), Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra continue a dialogue that began in 2014 with the Grammy-winning The Offense of the Drum, but dates at least as far back as 1947, when Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie collaborated on “Manteca,” frequently cited as the earliest Latin-jazz standard. O’Farrill’s release, recorded in Havana with Cuban and American artists, coincided with the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, beginning an ongoing discourse, both politically and culturally, toward what Gillespie envisioned as “universal music.”
O’Farrill, 55, travels to Cuba regularly, and is currently composing a large-scale concerto that will feature Dr. Cornel West as a spoken-word soloist with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. (The work is scheduled to premiere in the spring at the Apollo Theater.) He is also planning a recording with his fellow pianist-bandleader Chucho Valdés that will function as a tribute to their legendary fathers, Chico and Bebo, respectively, and their influence on Afro-Cuban jazz.