Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble

…dreaming in lions…
(Blue Note)

It’s a bit of fib to say that I saw dancers gliding while listening to the opening section of the …dreaming in lions… suite, but one thing’s certain: combined with Arturo O’Farrill’s compositional craft, his ensemble’s performance skills make it easy to imagine a troupe’s expressive maneuvers unfolding. Indeed, these two extended works were written in collaboration with the Malpaso Dance Company, and their rendering prompts visions of choreography.

That magic is due to the graceful kinetics of O’Farrill’s work. Be it the sweeping Caribbean polyrhythms of “Struggles and Strugglets,” or the catchy cascade of “War Bird Man,” this powerful music resounds with poise. Arranged with a sage balance, the parade of moods essayed by the 10-member Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble in “Despedida” and “Dreaming Of Lions” is calibrated to introduce myriad blends and various emotions. There’s true inspiration in the way the shaker/trombone/trumpet intro to “How I Love” morphs into a full-band exposition of the theme. And the musicians are locked in tight.

Flutes and muted trumpets twirl, piano and bass duos throw jabs, a Rhodes mixes it up with hand-percussion — the band’s transitions are remarkably limber. Pulse beats, clave grooves and breezy swing come and go with a fluid feel. With mentors Carla Bley and Chico O’Farrill in the rear-view mirror, and a Borges poem and a Hemingway tale, O’Farrill reaches new heights with his Blue Note debut.

On Sale Now
July 2022
Sean Jones
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