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Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra: Cuba: The Conversation Continues

Talk about timing. Pianist, composer and bandleader Arturo O’Farrill was in Havana with his orchestra this past December, preparing to record this glorious two-CD continuation of jazz’s dialogue with Cuba, when President Obama announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with the island nation.

O’Farrill assembled a binational cast of composers to contribute to the project. In the States, he chose his son Zack; Dafnis Prieto, whose lively “The Triumphant Journey” opens the album; Earl McIntyre, whose party-hearty “Second Line Soca [Brudda Singh]” plays up New Orleans’ connection to Havana and the Caribbean; and Michele Rosewoman, whose “Alabanza” blends postbop and Yoruba influences and features its composer on piano. In Cuba, he picked Alexis Bosch, who plays piano on his “Guajira Simple”; Bobby Carcassés, who powers his “Blues Guaguancó” with Yoruba-infused scatting; Michel Herrera, whose “Just One Moment” has him trading lines on alto saxophone with Arturo’s son Adam on trumpet; and Cotó, whose “El Bombón” became the trip’s irresistibly danceable anthem.

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