Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Arturo O’Farrill: The Noguchi Sessions

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
Arturo O'Farrill with his Latin Jazz Orchestra at CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival 2010

Give Arturo O’Farrill credit for guts. The 50-something leader-composer of splendid big bands and small ensembles chose to record the first solo piano record of his career in a single sitting. What’s more, he chose to record it inside a museum built by and dedicated to an artist, Isamu Noguchi, for whom O’Farrill has long felt affinity and admiration. In the promotional materials, O’Farrill also states that one of the subthemes of these performances is that “there is an unfinished quality to jazz,” and that “when I sat down to play, I kind of abandoned the game plan I had.”

Not surprisingly, the music produced under these circumstances is uneven-often brilliant, dense and ambitious, but occasionally too fitful for a truly satisfying coherence. For example, the opening piece, named “The Sun at Midnight” after a Noguchi sculpture, is a free improvisation that contains two, perhaps three, motifs that appear to be operating as free agents. And the embellishments on Randy Weston’s “Little Niles” erode some of the loping swing that is at the heart of the composition.

The highlights, however, can be spectacular. O’Farrill’s improvisation on the ’50s pop song “Once I Had a Secret Love,” retitled “Once I Had a Secret Meditation,” reveals new light and shadow and is lofted up in perfect pitch. His original composition, “Mi Vida,” is a tour de force on the tensile strength of a mature relationship; his Latin covers, of Ernesto Lecuona’s “Siboney” and Pedro Flores’ “Obsesión,” set those familiar melodies in the eye of his pianistic hurricane; and he resuscitates “Oh Danny Boy” from boozy banality. In fact, there is beauty and dazzle in most every tune. But sometimes it dashes away.

Originally Published