As the intro informs you, the Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra played Birdland Sundays for 15 years under Chico and his son Arturo, which has to be a record of some kind, but, all good things come to an end, and Arturo, already overworked beyond belief with innumerabke projects artistic and otherwise (the guy must be part machine), decided to throw in the towel and call it quits. Let's pause for a moment, though: Birdland is one of the most famous jazz dives on Earth and ya practically hafta kill God to get a gig there, yet this finely honed band captained the Sunday blow-out for a decade and a half. I can't think of one other ensemble that could garner that kind of loyalty, having paying customers show up for…good lord, 780 weeks! Thus, you know this date was special.
The CD opens in a three-suite of Chico's compositions ranging the map from blaring fanfare to pulsing rhythmatics to tongue-in-cheekery to abstract explorations and beyond. With 18 members, the coloratives are expansive and deep, with layers of interwork, all offset and underscored through a dynamic percussive trio (Vince Cherico, Tony Rosa, Joe Gonzalez) absolutely indispensable to the timbre of the entire affair. Then there's Arturo's piano, a great slice of which occurs when Pensivato breaks into a solo that sprints breakneck until Jim Seeley and his trumpet leap up and O'Farrill jams with him as the band keeps a steamy backdrop going. The two wrestle like sonic snakes until breaking back into mellifluity. The crowd, of course, goes wild.
Arturo steps out for an early lilting solo in Mambo, scampering all over the place in cascades, left hand comping for the right. The band blows and chants behind him, and the CD just keeps at it until the long last two cuts, Havana Blues and Fathers and Sons, bringing everything to a swinging finale, dancers cavorting, chairsitters seat-dancing, bartenders shaking and pouring martinis Ricky Ricardo style, and even the backdrop curtains billowing and swaying in time. Most definitely, if you're going to go out, this is the way to do it. It'll be quite a while before Birdland finds a replacement for these guys…but I doubt it'll be very long at all before Arturo has yet another gig going in one fashion or another. That tends to be the case with cats like him. When they say Man, that's all, I'm done!", what they mean is "Let me catch my breath for 10 minutes, and then we'll get back to it!".
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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