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Arturo O’Farrill Sextet: Boss Level

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A free-flowing sense of adventure permeates this album, recorded a few days after the sextet concluded a stint at Birdland. It’s obvious that the musicians-including pianist Arturo O’Farrill and his sons Adam (trumpet) and Zack (drums), along with tenor saxophonist Livio Almeida, guitarist Travis Reuter and bassist Shawn Conley-were loose, primed and ready when they entered the studio.

The scope here is deep and wide, but the overriding musical theme is unity of opposites. Arturo O’Farrill’s original music here works to rectify apparently contradictory forces-genres, rhythmic and melodic conceits, degrees of freedom, pleasures both spiritual and sensual-by letting these disparate elements have at one another and converge into unexpected wholes. In both ensemble passages and solos, various components and ideas juxtapose, congeal, splay apart and then reform; patterns and structures evolve and dissolve in turn, never allowing any one to establish full dominance. It’s truth-seeking as dance rather than as ideology.

Almeida’s tenor statements are muscular and resolute, their brawny tone and aggressive rhythmic attack bespeaking both gritty resolve and unshackled enthusiasm. Adam O’Farrill probes, somewhat more gently but no less resolutely, crisp and articulate, sure-pitched and full-toned, leavening hard-bop intensity with luxuriant languor. Reuter is spikier, more fusion-oriented with his molten-lava tone, quick-fingered single-note explosions and declamatory chording. Out in front, Arturo’s piano dances lightly yet with purpose, sometimes (as on the impressionistic “The Moon Follows Us Wherever We Go”) invoking shards of light illuminating a vast space, other times layering contrapuntal rhythms and melodic lines-again, forging coherence from open-ended possibility.

Originally Published