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Live: Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra at Birdland

Imaginative colorations and driving Latin grooves

Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra
Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Birdland, NYC 12-14

At its best, a big band presents a listener with a tantalizing dilemma-what should my ears focus on at the moment, and when should I shift my attention elsewhere?-while still offering big-picture musical satisfaction. Those aural pleasures were immediately demonstrated when the Arturo O’Farrill Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra kicked into “Compay Doug,” at the start of another Sunday evening’s two sets in the celebrated big band’s long-running weekly residency at Birdland.

Over the boiling rhythms of drummer Zack O’Farrill (Arturo’s son), and a pair of percussionists, the band’s horns expanded and contracted, sounding and rephrasing the tune’s theme via crosscurrents of lines. Along the way, the 13-minute tune opened up for bassist Gregg August’s long bowed solo, bolstered by his imaginative use of overtones and harmonics, as well as the leader’s piano solo, and turns by tenor saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown and trombonist Frank Cohen.

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