Arturo O'Farrill Sextet Reaches 'Boss Level' on New Zoho Music Release (REVIEW)

By Mike Greenblatt on Mar 15, 2016 04:54 PM EDT
Arturo O'Farrill Piano player Arturo O'Farrill's 'Boss Level' is a family affair. (Photo : courtesy Jazz promo Services)

There's no way Arturo O'Farrill's Latin Jazz Orchestra will prepare you for this! Boss Level (Zoho Music) by the Arturo O'Farrill Sextet is a staunchly bebopping 10-track manifesto recorded after they performed for a solid week at Birdland in New York City to hone their seemingly telepathic chops. Of course, pianist Arturo-son of the great Chico O'Farrill-has been jamming with the trumpeter (Adam) and the drummer (Zack) of this sextet forever. They're both his sons. With three O'Farrills amid the ghost of Grandpa Chico smiling, this is more than just a family affair. It's a whole 'nother O'Farrill level. Boss Level.

"Miss Stephanie" starts it all off on a wild 8:33 bop jam dedicated to a cable-TV music journalist in New York, Stephanie Simon of NY1, who has been behind the band from Day #1. "True That" follows and it's plainly evident right from the getgo this is a sextet that must pride itself on detail. Every note is in place. Every jagged edge has a reason for being there. So after over 15 minutes of two sumptuous tracks of non-stop action, you'd think there'd be a let-up. You'd be wrong. "The Moon Follows Us Wherever We Go" is an epic 9:11 of such substantial soloing, interplaying and miraculous chemistry that you'd think they would've shot their wad in the first three tracks. Again, you'd be wrong.

The next three tracks-Zack's 7:50 "Circle Games" (its childlike simplicity belies its inner complexity), Adam's 7:13 "Maine Song" (written after a family vacation) and Arturo's "Compay Doug" (for a friend)-make Boss Level a shoo-in for 2016 Top 10s. It's also where the other half of the sextet gets to shine.Livio Almeida is one hell of a tenor saxophonist. Bassist Shawn Conley asserts his presence by constantly rumbling dangerously below, seemingly ready to erupt Jaco-style at any moment. Guitarist Travis Rueter can be restrained and fine yet can also push off as if dragging this bop into the fusion realm. His "V.F.S." is another CD highlight.

The two covers-Horace Silver's closing "Peace" and Papo Vazquez's "Not Now Right Now" fit in perfectly like the last two pieces of a puzzle.

The O'Farrill family has, indeed, reached their Boss Level. Arturo's own liner notes delineates the family's love of playing video games together which inspired the title. The only question is how do they follow-up something so great? Hate to say it but they may never again reach these dizzying heights. Go on, young men, prove me wrong!

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TagsArturo O' Farrill, Chico O'Farrill, REVIEW, Zoho Music

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